Review of Unfollow by Megan Phelps-Roper – An essential, brave, captivating autobiography. @meganphelps @riverrunbooks #autobiography #non-fiction #newbook #bookish #Review

Unfollow
By Megan Phelps-Roper
Rated: *****

About the Author

Megan Phelps-Roper is a writer and activist. Formerly a member of the Westboro Baptist Church, she left the church in November 2012 and is now an educator on topics related to extremism and communication across ideological divides. She lives in South Dakota with her husband, Chad, and daughter, Solvi Lynn.

Blurb

It was an upbringing in many ways normal. A loving home, shared with squabbling siblings, overseen by devoted parents. Yet in otherways it was the precise opposite: a revolving door of TV camera crews and documentary makers, a world of extreme discipline, of siblings vanishing in the night.

Megan Phelp’s Roper was raised in the Westboro Baptist Church – the fire-and-brimstone religious sect at once aggressively homophobic and anti-Semitic, rejoiceful for AIDS and natural disasters, and notorious for its picketing the funerals of American soldiers.
From her first public protest, aged five, to her instrumental role in spreading the church’s invective via social media, her formative years brought their difficulties. But being reviled was not one of them. She was preaching God’s truth. She was, in her words, ‘all in’.

In November 2012, at the age of twenty-six, she left the church, her family, and her life behind.

Unfollow cover pic

Review

I had watched the documentary by Louis Theroux. There are two of them. The second one was when he returned to the US to catch up with Megan as she informed him that she had left the Westboro Baptist Church. It is fascinating. I later won her newly published book (2019) – Unfollow in a competition I saw on Twitter. It is with thanks to the publisher Quercus and Prima magazine reviewer – Nina Pottell that I have this book, so I decided I would write a review of it as I believe it is a book worthy of doing this for.

This book is brave. Brave can be a completely over-used word and one I often avoid using, but here, I think it is warranted. It is gripping in the fact it is a fascinating truth of an insight into her family and the church she was raised in and how she changed her views and walked away. Sounds simple, but reading this book will show that it was anything but as easy as that.

Megan doesn’t hold back in writing about the extremities of her grandfather’s (Gramps) beliefs and the same ones that were inflicted on her at such a young age, so they would become so ingrained that she would just follow-on. Imagine at the age of 5 being on a picket line, just because that’s where your parents tell you that’s where you have to be. Worrying isn’t it? And yet we see children everywhere, babies even on picket-lines, whether it is for something extreme or not…. makes you think doesn’t it? Or perhaps it will, reading this book.

It is enlightening to see both of what went on within the church, but also the family relations and the contrast between what would be considered average and the actual activities that were imposed.

Megan goes into detail about the protests the Westboro Baptist Church led. Seriously, even if you find parts upsetting, stick with it. This book is a book people need to read. This book exposes the Westboro Baptist Church and it tells of how she bravely left.

Megan was clearly born into a church which was powerful, extreme and cult-like in what went on within their belief system, the manner in which they learnt the bible and how it wasn’t the done thing to leave. This is her journey of living this and thinking it was a place she would stay forever to actually leaving it all behind.

The attitudes of the Westboro Baptists to major world events is interesting and shocking to read and aren’t particularly ones that most churches would follow.

It is interesting to read the actual attitudes and thoughts on Louis Theroux and his camera crew. It was also interesting to read how much time they spent in the US filming and gathering material for the documentary, which I also recommend watching.

Reading further about the turning points and when Megan decided to leave the church, it is evident it wasn’t a decision taken lightly and she had much to consider, such as her own beliefs, where life may take her next, other people. She also goes into transitioning from a life of hard-fast rules to a life with more freedoms and time to discover more.

This book is different from so many others of its genres. It speaks of a truth that for some, may be hard to bear and for others, may be a comfort that attitudes of individuals can change with some care and attention as well as kindness. It is a well-written account of a life that was one way and changed to another way of life, with new beliefs. It is about a life many may have heard of, but not experienced. This book is one that captures and holds attention. It is one that leaves me saying that I hope all works out for Megan as she works through discovering a new way of living life with her family that she is bringing up away from the West-boro Baptist Church.

 

Great books from 2019 – Happy New Year and Happy Reading #HappyNewYear #2019books #2019wrapup #MyYearinBooks #BestBooks #MustReads #amreading #readingforpleasure #books #CrimeFiction #Thriller #FamilySaga #Saga #Historical #Kidslit #YA #NonFiction #Fiction #Fantasy #UpLit #Bookish

Great Books to check out and read from 2019

I have read and reviewed so many books this year. I have decided to follow the trend of compiling an end of year list of what I would consider “The Must Read or Top 2019 Books. The list will be in no particular order, but will be broken down into genre. Here you will find great Children’s Books and Young Adult books, followed by all types of crime fiction; followed by general fictional books; followed by family saga/historical fiction; followed by fantasy; followed by non-fiction/autobiographical/biographical.
Firstly, I would like to say a few thanks:

I am incredibly grateful to everyone however who contacts me through my blog or Twitter, interacts with me, sends me books to review, either personally or through publishing houses. I am grateful for the generosity of authors, publishers and bloggers for sharing my reviews on their social media platforms and websites. I thank publishers and authors for considering me and for giving me the responsibility of reviewing their books. Reviewing someone’s work is something I don’t do lightly. A lot of thought goes into it all and also I am so conscious that what is in my hands at that moment is someone’s hard work and, whether I’ve met the person/people face to face or not, I am always aware of them being human too. I must say that I do love writing my blog and I appreciate every opportunity I have ever had that has come with writing it.

I also thank those authors, publishers and bloggers who have been kind and generous in other ways too, such as help with the community library I currently lead. You know who you are and I am eternally grateful.

Now onto the lists. I hope people find something new, some inspiration or are perhaps reminded that they want to check out a book. The books on the list are all on my blog, so feel free to check out the full reviews. The books can be borrowed from libraries, bought from bookshops and are also e-books on the various e-book platforms.

Children and Young Adult Fiction


Princess Poppy – Please, Please Save the Bees by Janey Louise Jones
Timothy Mean and the Time Machine by William A.E. Ford
The Hangry Hamster by Grace McCluskey
Leo and the Lightning Dragons by Gill White
Toletis by Rafa Ruiz
The Age of Akra by Vacen Taylor

The Extremely Inconvenient Adventures of Bronte Mettlestone by Jaclyn Moriarty
10 Things to do Before You Leave School by Bernard O’Keefe (YA)

Crime Fiction , including Thrillers and Political Thrillers

Absolution by Adam Croft
Nothing Important Happened Today by Will Carver
In the Absence of Miracles by Michael J. Malone

Nothing to Hide by James Oswald
The Poisoned Rock by Robert Daws
Death at the Plague Museum by Lesley Kelly
The Killing Rock by Robert Daws
In Plain Sight by Adam Croft
Sealed with a Death by James Sylvester
Hands Up by Stephen Clark
The Silence of Severance by Wes Markin
A Friend In Deed by G.D. Harper

General Fiction

 


The Strawberry Thief by Joanne Harris
Birthday Girl by Haruki Murakami
A Summer to Remember by Sue Moorcroft
Sweet Sorrow by David Nicholls
Let it Snow by Sue Moorcroft
Summer at the Kindness Café by Victoria Walters
Secret Things and Highland Flings by Tracy Corbett
Sunshine and Secrets – The Paradise Cookery School by Daisy James

Family Saga/Historical Fiction

Bobby Girls coverHeady HeightsTime will tell book

Bobby Girls by Johanna Bell
Welcome to the Heady Heights by David F.Frost

Time Will Tell by Eva Jordan

Fantasy

The Blue Salt Road Joanne HarrisThe Old Dragon's Head Coveer

The Blue Salt Road by Joanne M. Harris (YA and Adult)
The Old Dragon’s Head by Justin Newland

The Longest Farewell by Nula Suchet
Zippy and Me by Ronnie Le Drew
First in the Fight 20 Women Who Made Manchester by Helen Antrobus
The Book of Forgotten Authors by Christopher Fowler

I have some books to review already and working on them for 2020.
I’ve plenty of exciting things to be blogging about in 2020 and hopefully many more exciting opportunities will crop up in the future. I will also be publishing brief resumes of great theatre shows from 2018 and 2019, most of which are still running, going to tour nationally in the UK and some of which come back every so often, so could be ones to look out for in the future.
For now, I hope you enjoy what I have for my 2019 resumes and all else that is on my blog. I hope you all had a great Christmas and I wish you all a Happy New Year and all the best for 2020. Thank you too for following and reading my blog, without such, it wouldn’t exist. I love writing my blog and always grateful to those who give me opportunities to review and to write and to talk to people and to those who read what I write. Thank you!!!!

As I didn’t do this in 2018, here is a quick run down of the best books I read then. 
Fiction – Stealth by Hugh Fraser, Antiques and Alibis by Wendy H. Jones, The Wrong Direction by Liz Treacher, A Christmas Gift by Sue Moorcroft.
Non -Fiction – An Almost Perfect Christmas by Nina Stibbe, Charles Dickens by Simon Callow, Fill my Stocking by Alan Titchmarsh.
Young Adult – Tony Plumb and the Moles of Ellodian by J.M. Smith
Children’s books – The Treasure At the Top of The World by Clive Mantle.
Reviews can be found on my blog. Please note the Christmas books are reviewed within one blog post with quick reviews.

Happy New Year 2020

 

Bookmark pic

Review of Ka-E-RO-U – Time to Go Home – A beautifully written book about the repatriation of a flag, history, culture and love by B. Jeanne Shibahara #Time to Go Home #B.JeanneShibahara #Review #WW2 #Japan #UK #USA #History #Culture #ModernTimes #fiction #Mystery #Humour

KA-E-RO-U – Time to Go Home
by B. Jeanne Shibahara
Rated 4 stars ****

About the Author and Book

B. Jeanne Shibahara studied fiction writing from Mark Harris (Bang the Drum Slowly) B Jeanne Shibharaand copywriting from Beth Luey (Editorial Consultant, Chicago Manual of Style, 16thEd.) in the MA program for creative writing at Arizona State University.

In Japan, B. Jeanne has taught English at a private university, written articles for research groups, and created jazz lyrics for composer Hajime Kitamura.

Daughter of a US military officer, she married into a family of calligraphy, ikebana, and tea ceremony teachers, shamisen player, kimono fabric artist, business entrepreneur, and architect. Her home is in Nara City, the ancient capital of Japan.

Time-slip to my Osaka life, 1995, fifty years after the end of WWII—bubble economy ready to burst and the seed to KA-E-RO-U falls into my hands. A WWII Japanese flag. A widow of a US veteran in Akron, Ohio sends the flag to a colleague of mine, asks him to find the family of the fallen soldier who had carried it into the battlefields.
Please click on the website link for more information about the author and the very interesting backstory to the book.           Link:    Website

Meryl is a Vietnam War widow who misses her grown son, feels left out after her father’s recent marriage. A WWII Japanese flag falls into her hands. The gentle push of a love-struck professor starts her adventure to take the flag home. From the neon of Osaka, to the ancient capital Nara, to the forests of Akita, the trail follows British and US expats, a newspaper reporter, factory manager, ikebana teacher, a Matagi hunter and winds through Japanese culture, past and present. A story of shared humanity and love “in the simplest things.”

Kaerou

Review

The book is well organised and split into 6 sections – Desert Flower M, The Backstreets of Namba, Day 2 in Japan, To Meryl To Atika, Returns and Finale.

The opening sentence is  “Everybody who knew the secretary knew she couldn’t resist any chance at serving up beefy gossip—seasoned, well done, sizzling and sputtering the latest, the most titillating, the just-gotta-tell.” I must say, it is instantly intriguing and I wanted to know a bit more and it is written so excellently.

I wasn’t quite sure what to expect from the book as a whole really, but I was intrigued enough to really want to read it. I started to enjoy it from the outset in the office and getting to know the characters. The letter interested me as do the Shakespearean quotes. I like that there is some humour mingled in with history and people’s lives.

Kaerou takes readers along with Meryl, who is a war widow from the Vietnam war, on a  journey to Japan. She discovered a Japanese flag of a fallen soldier from the second world war and wants to deliver it back to the family. She meets many interesting characters who I enjoyed reading about, including a professor and a writer. The book is very character driven. The premise of the actual plot is fine and interesting enough. Sometimes the grammar isn’t at its best, but somehow that doesn’t detract from the actual story and the richness in culture. It really is fascinating to read about the cultures and how they sit in people’s minds as the book isn’t just about Japan, it covers the UK, Vietnam and the US.

The scenery is beautifully written and picturesque.

The book is nicely written and it is interesting as there are some quick, short chapters, yet the pace is smooth and gentle. The way it goes between past and present is beautifully presented and flows well and in an unconfused way. With all the complexities of the book, everything marries up well on the whole, leaving a pleasant satisfaction.

The book is a love story and one of discovery. It is also one of history and how it can join up with the present as there is a journey to join up the flag of the fallen soldier with his family. It’s about moving on, but not without making peace first with what was lost in the war. It’s also about life ever-moving onwards and it’s there to be really lived and embraced and trying to overcome and bridge that which divides us. So, as much as this is Remembrance Sunday and we think of our war dead and the veterans who are still alive, this book is about love too and there is something to learn here as well, even though Japan wasn’t an ally nation. In this book readers can learn about the past and more present times of Japan through the characters that are written about.

I think B.Jeanne Shibahara has achieved what she set out to achieve. She has a book that has a story, great characters and I get the sense of most importantly, one that tells the world about Japan.

Overall, I recommend this book. Take a leap, take that chance and read about the familiar and the perhaps, lesser well-known and learn something from this story that, although is fictional, is based on fact. So, I recommend to try this book for something new. Sometimes we get into reading very similar books time and time again, this book brings something new, or if you like reading about people’s lives or family sagas even, or learning about different cultures and thoughts and feeling emotions and history in terms of where it also sits with the present,  then I would recommend Ke a rou. Bascially, I say give it a go for a pleasant, satisfying read.

I have to say I enjoyed reading the book. Thanks to B. Jeanne Shibahara for contacting me on my contact page on my blog and for giving me this amazing opportunity to review her book. I thank her also for buying me a copy of her book and sending it to me.

Bobby Girls by Johanna Bell @JoBellAuthor @HodderBooks @HodderPublicity @TeamBookends #TheBobbyGirls #strictlysagagirls #WW1 #HistoricalFiction #bookreview #readingforpleasure

Bobby Girls
By Johanna Bell
Rated:

About the Author

Johanna Bell cut her teeth on local newspapers in Essex, eventually branching ut into magazine journalism, with stints as a features editor and then commissioning editor at Full House magazine. She now has sixteen years’ experience in print media. Her freelance life has seen her working on juicy real-life stories for women’s weekly magazine market, as well as hard-hitting news stories for national newspapers and prepping her case studies for TV interviews. When she’s not writing, Johanna can be found walking her dog with her husband or playing peek-a-boo with her daughter.

Blurb

1914, while their men are fighting in France, at home in Britain, women are finally seizing the opportunity to make a difference.

Maggie and her new friends, Annie, Irene and Sarah come from very different backgrounds, but they’ve got one thing in common: They’ve all signed up for the Women Police Volunteers. They can’t wait to show the men just what they’re made of.

But soon Maggie realises she is in over her head. Hiding her involvement with the WPV from her tyrannous father is becoming ever more difficult, and when she bumps into an old acquaintance with a big chip on his shoulder, the dangers of her new life become all too clear…

As Maggie and the girls work together to find their feet on the beat, will their friendship get her through the darkest of times?

Bobby Girls cover

Review

A step back in time, when times were different, attitudes were different and there was the first world  war going on as well as a fight for the vote. Time to discover the Bobby Girls – the WPV – Women Police Volunteers.

First of all, make sure you read the letter to readers that Johanna has written. It provides a great insight as to why she wrote Bobby Girls and where her inspiration came from.

The prologue is ingeniously written to introduce the characters Maggie, Annie Sarah and Irene to readers and not only that, the characters to the advertisement from the police looking for female volunteers.

The author – Johanna Bell has certainly put in a lot of work and researched this period of time. Even with it being a fictional book, it is fascinating to read what the first female police volunteers (in the time before there were police officers), would have done.

I felt when Christmas came and there was hope that the war would be over, the emotions were wonderfully captured and the sympathy between friends was quite beautiful as loved ones were thought of.

I really like the characters and the way they interact throughout the story. Readers also will not only get an insight into the characters personal lives as they all come from different backgrounds and there are secrets and worries, but also as being bobby girls and their status within the force and their powers, or lack of to arrest. It is all very well written and flows well.

Make sure you keep reading past the acknowledgements as there is a fascinating insight given, complete with photos of the real Bobby Girls. I thought this added to the just read story and was lovely to acknowledge them in this way.

The second book in the series – The Bobby Girls’ Secrets is available for pre-order in both paperback and e-book. I recommend you treat yourselves to these. The first book in the series – The Bobby Girls gets the series off to a great start and it is pleasing it doesn’t end there.

With thanks to Johanna Bell and Hodder & Stoughton for agreeing I could review the book – Bobby Girls

Bloody Scotland – Mark Billingham and Richard Osman – 2 Entertaining, Warm Authors – 5 Star Review @MarkBillingham @Richardosman #TheirLittleSecret #BloodyScotland #Pointless

Bloody Scotland
Mark Billingham in Conversation with Richard Osman
Rated: 5 Stars *****

The weather was warm and sunny on Saturday 21st September 2019 when I attended Bloody Scotland in Stirling. One of the greatest crime festivals, which also showcases new authors as well as the well-known ones. I was in for an amazing night and as my blog turned 1 year old, it was lovely to be able to be back at Bloody Scotland, where I wrote my first blog post.

I went to see Richard Osman and Mark Billingham in conversation. First up was Daniel James for the spotlight section, which gives new authors a chance to talk about their books and read an excerpt. First impressions were that his book – The unauthorised biography of Ezra Mass sounds intriguing and dark.

The main event was Richard Osman and Mark Billingham in conversation with each other. If you ever get a chance to see these two, go for it. You’ll be in for a highly entertaining time and they are both warm and very kind. What I liked too was the way they both seemed to have genuine respect for each other, even when they were ribbing each other about things, but it all seemed to be in good humour,the way that could only be done if someone knew each other well. It was a lovely atmosphere.

Richard Osman, who has produced many popular tv shows, such as 8 out of 10 Cats etc, presents quizzes and been a panelist on shows such as Have I Got News For You etc and can currently be seen presenting Pointless alongside Alexander Armstrong. He has a new fictional book called The Thursday Murder Club. Be aware that it amazingly isn’t published until September 2020. I felt very privileged to be part of an audience to hear so much about it, so far in advance. It is set in an enclosed retirement type of place with the main characters being in a gang of 4 in their 70s and because they are of an age they can get away with practically anything.  It was described  as having a cosy setting but very funny, moving and razor-sharp. Mark Billingham praised Richard Osman about how readers will get to know the characters quickly and of them being likeable. They talked about how there isn’t much police procedural but lots of cakes feature. I quickly decided that this is a book that I would like very much to read and would be happy to review. It seems to have an interesting premise and good “ingredients” to it.

It was so interesting hearing about how Richard Osman has always been a fan of crime fiction and how he always wanted to write and how he and Mark Billingham got together and about a lunch. It sounded like a great lunch, full of amazing opportunity.

It was fascinating to hear about the huge gap between writing and having a book published and on shelves and the public reading it and how with tv, the reaction is more instant. It wasn’t anything I’d ever heard authors talk about at events. There seemed to be great honesty spoken of. Other authors of course talk honestly too, but sometimes of different things. They spoke well and so openly about how authors, whether they are new or been writing for a while have some self-doubt and how so many wonder if their work is actually un-publishable. This wasn’t spoken of in a negative light as people may have expected, rather in a more positive one in some ways.

As for books, Richard Osman admitted that he didn’t read a book until 21. Just shows that no one is too old to pick up a book and start reading. He also talked about how contemporary fiction led to crime fiction and about writing something that is commercial.

Mark Billingham’s latest book is Their Little Secret. Already, it’s an intriguing title.

Tom Thorne is the award-winning Mark Billingham’s main  character and this is the 17th in the series. He has also written short stories, stand alone stories and a non-fiction book. He, alongside crime authors such as Val McDermid, is a member of the singing group – Fun Lovin Writers.

Richard Osman said of it that it was extraordinary how he moves the characters on and also praised about how it was detailed and modern. The interesting thing here was that Mark Billingham talked about the twists and all the other tricks and armour up crime writer’s sleeves, but reckoned the quieter moments were exciting too.

How they plan was discussed. The fact is they don’t really plan, compared to other authors. Everyone is different, which is exciting. It was interesting to hear of the challenges posed when that debut novel is out there and the second novel is being created and the differences between that and furthering a series, as well as reflecting what is going on in the world, especially if something major happens.

Mark Billingham spoke of where he got his inspiration from and so did Richard Osman and I won’t say what it is as the material that could be used in many talks, but there was a moment when Mark was telling of something extraordinary happening that really made me shudder and I am sure I wasn’t the only one to in the audience.

They both spoke of their love of creating books and it became clear that this was genuine by the way they spoke. Richard Osman talked about how he loves being a sidekick on the likes of Pointless but also loves the solitude of writing and of being part of the crime writing community and how lovely people are. I have to say that I too have found that authors are lovely and it was at Bloody Scotland a year ago when I started my blog and then went to another crime festival from there and even though they write about murder etc, the authors, I have found to be generous and very nice indeed.

It was interesting seeing their personalities being totally shown and hearing how hard they work and how pressures often come from themselves. Something I too can relate to. I often think that if you’re going to do something, you might as well try to do it to the best of your ability. Richard Osman also spoke candidly of being an introvert. I think he does amazingly well and it is inspiring how he still puts himself out there to do something, like being on the stage to do this talk or on tv. Sometimes it is just something that has to be done to acheive something, again something else relatable. 

Richard Osman is now working on his second novel, which he spoke a little of and I am already interested in what may happen to his characters and the first book isn’t even available yet. A whole year to wait! I’ll just need to try and be patient. Mark Billingham is working on a prequel to his series. At least there’s already one of his to be getting on with.

There was much fun to be had with a game of guessing author’s ages and it was Mark Billingham v the audience. All the way through the event there was much fun to be had as these men are sharp and are great at the humour as well as the serious and mix it up so well.

All in all I am looking forward to reading Mark Billingham’s book, who I thank for signing and writing such an encouraging message. I look forward to Richard Osman’s book being released and I hope he returns to Bloody Scotland when it is. I also thank Richard Osman for allowing me to talk to him briefly. I thank the two of them for such an excellent evening.

So, I will conclude in saying thanks and that I highly recommend to anyone to see these kind, talented and warm gentlemen and I hope that I get the opportunity to see them again. I also hope Bloody Scotland invites Richard Osman back when his book is actually published.

Zippy and Me by Ronnie Le Drew with Duncan Barrett and Nuala Calvi – Re-visit your childhood with this enlightening book about Rainbow #ZippyAndMe @Punchand @unbounders #DuncanBarrett #NualaCalvi #Rainbow #retrotv #newreview #nonfiction #puppeteers

Zippy and Me
By Ronnie Le Drew with Duncan Barrett and Nuala Calvi
Rated: *****

I am pleased to be on the Blog Tour of the book Zippy and me. This book is the first behind-the-scenes look at the now legendary children’s TV programme Rainbow, which ran for more than two decades.

Zippy and Me BT Poster

About the Author

Ronnie Le Drew is one of the UK’s most respected puppeteers, and recipient of the prestigious Harlequin Award.
He has operated many of the most iconic children’s puppets of the twentieth century – Zippy, Sweep, Muffin the Mule, Bill and Ben, Brains from Thunderbirds – as well as working on classic puppet films such as Labyrinth, Little Shop of Horrors and
The Muppet Christmas Carol. He continues to work regularly as a puppeteer in TV,
theatre and advertising and also teaches at the London School of Puppetry, which he founded in 1987.

Ronnie Le Drew

Blurb

Over the course of almost half a century, puppeteer Ronnie Le Drew has worked with the greats – from David Bowie in Labyrinth to Michael Caine in A Muppet Christmas Carol. But the role that defined his career was Rainbow’s Zippy, who he operated for more than twenty years.
Zippy and Me is the first time a Rainbow insider has told the true story of what went on under the counter and inside the suits: the petty squabbles between performers, wrangling with TV executives, and scandals such as the ‘love triangle’ between musicians Rod, Jane and Freddy. Not to mention the now infamous X-rated episode shot for an ITV Christmas party, which subsequently found its way to the Sun.
Interweaved with the dirt on what really went on behind the scenes is the story of Rainbow’s heyday in the 1970s and 80s, when its stars found themselves catapulted into an exciting showbiz world – scooping a BAFTA award and even performing for the queen – and the story of a young lad from a south London council estate who defied his parents’ protests to became one of the most respected puppeteers of all time.

zippy cover

 

Review

The book has an entertaining foreword by comedian Richard Herring about the time when he met Zippy and was so in awe. It’s an excellent way to begin this book and thus being thrust back into the rather simpler life of early childhood of watching Rainbow. Rainbow, for anyone who does not know, was a long-running children’s tv series with Geoffrey at the helm and then there were Rod, Jane and Freddy and some puppets called Zippy, Bungle and George. How I was glued to the television when this was on. I even still remember the theme tune, later I learnt that the theme tune was worked on by none other than Hugh Fraser who played Captain Hastings in Poirot and other tv programmes and has also written books. What we would not have been aware of as children, was that Ronnie Le Drew was the puppeteer for Zippy for over 20 years. It defined his career as a puppeteer, but that wasn’t his only role. Yes, Rainbow was a very fun and cool programme. but he has also worked with some other very cool people such as David Bowie on the film Labyrinth and Michael Caine in the film – A Muppet’s Christmas Carol.

Ronnie Le Drew’s enthusiasm for puppeteering comes across from the very first chapter. It oozes with this positivity and energy as he writes letters for advice and attends a puppet theatre. It isn’t all plain sailing though. The writing means readers will really get the sense of the shock of his dad dying. This has real emotional impact and will do, with any reader. It really is heart breaking to read as home life becomes more of a struggle. This could not have been easy for Ronnie Le Drew to have written and re-lived, even all these years on. There’s a real sense to be had in the devastating loss of his job at Little Angel too. The one place he could go that seems like it felt a safe place and one, he describes as a place of solace. The writing of this time feels like it is heartfelt. Ronnie Le Drew has captured me as a reader. I am interested in his life. I feel like I care and care enough to really smile when I see his life start to change for the better, the more into the book. This is the power of his writing. The book has become, for me, at this point, more than just the fact it is really cool to read about Rainbow. I’ve been captured by every aspect before that job too, headed up by Pamela Lonsdale. It is fascinating to read how it all began and how Ronnie Le Drew landed the job. There’s an air of down-to-earthness about it all. I rather like that. Still, the puppeteer, when Rainbow wasn’t being filmed, due to the end of series one, he went back to where he began, at Little Angel, where there were spats, but rectified. I really got the sense that Rainbow excited him when the calls came for even the second series, but he wanted to play it coolly and professionally. There’s plenty to discover in this book, such as Matthew Corbett from the Sooty Show, as worked on Rainbow for a while and Le Drew began working as Sweep and there’s some great stories from this time too.
There’s a real sense of the physical demands on a puppeteer, which really might be overlooked when being a child especially, just watching on at favourite characters. So, there’s a real behind the scenes feel to what is written within the book. What appeared to be seamless, wasn’t the case at all. It is however, more interesting that the puppeteers were overlooked by the producers. The real frustration of this really comes out in the book. It gives readers a real insight. There’s also an insight into all the innuendo that went on within Rainbow, including in script form. There’s also an insight about the relationships and there’s a sense of real worry again from Ronnie Le Drew when so-called scandals came out about Rod and Jane. All the while, there is still a down-to-earthness about Ronnie Le Drew and how he saw his working life being a bit surreal.

It is interesting to read how doors opened into the more surreal world of American puppetry and films like Labyrinth and Little Shop of Horrors and yet he duly returned to Rainbow and also to the Little Angel Theatre. I get the sense it can’t have been easy re-living the splintering of Rainbow and also the failing health of John at the theatre. This however is far from a “poor me, sob story”. This, I get the feeling, is telling it how it really was, including the politics of the time, such as Margaret Thatcher (which now explains a lot about tv my brother and I watched growing up, suddenly disappearing, along with a lot of other things, that at that time just felt odd, but didn’t understand), was ensuring much was axed, something that even with the fact that the next job was on A Muppet’s Christmas Carol, still perhaps played on Ronnie Le Drew’s mind. There’s certainly a sense of this. Even though he worked with David Bowie and Jim Henson, there’s still a reality that always seems to kick in as Ronnie Le Drew seems surprised at getting roles. I have to say, it seems all quite endearing and I get the sense that this is all written from memories and the heart. There’s no bravado here. He doesn’t name-drop for the sake of it, it was a huge part of his life, working with, who we now would say were cool people.

It’s interesting to read about the move to Yorkshire and the feelings that came with that and failed revivals of Rainbow and how still other jobs came in, such as with Phillip Scholfield and then Rainbow again in a whole different format.

The book is full of ups and downs and many emotions, all captured beautifully in words on the pages. It isn’t just readable because of nostalgia and a natural curiosity about what happened to people who worked on Rainbow, but because of the sense that this is an ordinary man who did some extraordinary things within puppeteering and yet seems humble about it. This book is well set out and reads like a time-line of events and that works well for me. This is more than just Zippy and Ronnie Le Drew, this is a book that may inspire others who are in jobs that are precarious and indeed, into becoming puppeteers. It’s also a book about life, working relationships, family and all that comes with all of that. There’s warmth, there’s sadness and there’s fun within these pages. There’s revelations and reunions, none which seem sensationalised in any way, but are written with a dignity and in a matter of fact way. All in all, it is a brave and impressive book from an author who, we may not have all known his name, but who we were all so aware of as children and now also as adults because he has been working on modern puppets in advertising and other things that we all see. He has also never forgotten his roots. This is a fascinating read from someone who the public don’t really see, but all know the characters he has played in puppeteering and would give hope to anyone wanting to follow in his footsteps. Even for people not wanting to follow in his footsteps, it is absorbing and a book that shouldn’t be skimmed over. It has different levels of depth and emotion to it and it is interesting to read about all the comings and goings on Rainbow, but also what happened before and after the show ended.

I highly recommend this book. This book would interest anyone who has an interest in puppeteering or liked Rainbow or liked Seeing Things: A Memoir by Oliver Postgate, Jim Henson: The Biography by Brian Jay Jones.