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Stella & Rose's Books

Specialists in Rare & Collectable Books

Michael Foreman

Michael Foreman is an award-winning illustrator of over 300 titles for both adults and children. He is best known for his children’s book illustrations and is a winner of numerous awards including the Nestle Smarties Book Prize and Kate Greenaway Medal. He was born in Suffolk in 1938 and grew up near Lowestoft, in Pakefield, where his mother kept the village shop. 

As a child, he did not have any books in the family home. This gave him the advantage of being able to come up with completely new look illustrations, never having seen the original illustrations of childhood classics and often reading them for the first time when asked to illustrate the classics. He has illustrated books by Charles Dickens, William Shakespeare, The Brothers Grimm, J.M. Barrie, Roald Dahl and Rudyard Kipling, to name a few. His style, using watercolour and line drawings, is especially suited to fables, folk and fairy tales, giving a sense of mystery and menace. He has also written and illustrated numerous books for children himself.

(Published 3rd Jan 2023) Read full article

The Funny (and not so funny) Side of Living in Portugal

My turn to write the monthly article for our website but the eternal question – what to write about? I am staying at my cottage in Portugal at the moment so thought I would recount some of the more interesting aspects of living here.

The first lesson my husband and I learned on arriving here was – be patient!  Nothing and no-one moves in a hurry here, unlike in the UK where everyone seems to be rushing around all the time. In some ways it is refreshing, in other ways it is immensely frustrating. My husband, Cliff, found this the most difficult thing to get used to but eventually was forced to relax and go with the flow.

(Published 22nd Nov 2022) Read full article

A Wonderful Weekend

I live near Monmouth and am lucky enough to be able to walk from my house into some woods where I can listen to bird song and watch the changing light, depending on the time of year, day, and weather.

I can also walk into town across the Wye bridge, but sadly this is not so enchanting at present.  In the last five years, only five years, it has changed from a river full of fish and wildlife to a smelly, sad river with large mushroom shaped plumes of algae.  This can be lethal to dogs who swim in the river and harmful to humans as well as to life on and in the river.  There used to be more than 20 swans to be seen at any one time, many with multiple cygnets, now we only see one or two and the cygnets find it hard to survive with the lack of food.  Conversely there are many more Canada geese because they can graze the surrounding grasses more effectively.  As to be expected these days it is down to short-sighted human pollution, water extraction, climate change and the lack of political will.

(Published 1st Nov 2022) Read full article

Arthur Rackham

Arthur Rackham, one of 12 children, was born 19th September 1867 in Vauxhall, London and died 6th September 1939.

Arthur Rackham is undoubtedly a name that can be placed right in the heart of the Golden Age of book illustration, and with it conjures up images of elves, fairies, princes & princesses, brave young knights and dragons. Some would say he was a direct inspiration for Disney many years later.

The last years of the nineteenth century saw a huge new interest in folk & fairy tales by the general public. This subject was revived mostly by the authors Andrew Lang and Joseph Jacobs and could be seen in the pages of Strand magazine from all corners of the world. This Golden Age of children’s book illustration reached its peak between the years 1905-1914 due to this interest in folk and fairy tales. At the same time the new technology being developed in book printing techniques enabled colour illustrations to be reproduced for mass publication.

(Published 20th Sep 2022) Read full article

A Vampire Hunt

On a beautiful hot day in the middle of July, my brother-in-law invited me to go on a vampire hunt. Now I hear Transylvania is nice this time of year – but it seemed a long way to go for a day-trip!

Our vampire hunt was to start at the South-East edge of the Black Mountain, between Sennybridge and Ystradgynlais  in the Brecon Beacons National Park in Wales. My brother-in-law (Mark) assured me there was definitely a vampire to be found – but not of the Bram Stoker variety. Rather, this was the flying kind – a de Havilland Vampire.

De Havilland Vampire (Credit Wikipedia) / Looking Back on Llyn y Fan Fawr  

The de Havilland Vampire was only the second jet powered fighter to be operated by the RAF (after the Gloster Meteor) and was developed during the Second World War. It entered service with the RAF in 1946, just months after the war ended. The Vampire remained in front-line RAF service until 1953, at this point moving to secondary roles such as pilot training. It was finally fully retired in 1966.

(Published 31st Aug 2022) Read full article

Wildlife in My Garden

I am very lucky to live in the Wye Valley on the edge of the Forest of Dean. Our garden backs onto woodland so we have a wide variety of wildlife. Having cats, I have also seen another layer of wildlife that has been brought to the door over the years!

We have the whole spectrum of wildlife from Deer down to Spiders. There is always something to see all through the year. The birdsong, however, is a constant beautiful backdrop all through the day, but the dawn chorus is also spectacular especially in the spring. This year for the first time we heard a Cuckoo and had regular fly pasts from a Red Kite. The Tawny Owls can be heard at night calling to each other across the valley. Bats are often present in some number at dusk during the summer. At first it was a bit disconcerting,  as there is no sound and they fly so quickly you are not sure what you are seeing. Even more so in the bedroom during the early hours! In that case we did manage to carefully catch the little creature and pass it onto the Bat Protection people.

(Published 27th Jul 2022) Read full article

The Rapture of Raptors

Birds of Prey, also known as Raptors, are a group of birds that includes hawks, owls, eagles, vultures, falcons and more.

If, when you think of Big Birds, you can only imagine one that is yellow and from Sesame Street, you need to read on…!

Raptors play an important ecological role in the natural habitat by keeping the prey populations under control.

(Published 30th Jun 2022) Read full article

Angela Brazil

Angela Brazil was born in Lancashire on the 30th of November 1868 to parents Clarence Brazil and Angelica McKinnel and was the youngest of their four children.  The family moved around the Lancashire area for Clarence Brazil's work as a mill manager and then into the Manchester area. In later years, after her father's death, they moved to the Conwy Valley in Wales.  In 1911, Brazil finally relocated and settled in Coventry, keeping house for her brother and later being joined by her sister.

Angela Brazil (Wikipedia) / A Terrible Tomboy  

It is said that Angela's mother, Angelica had a large impact and influence in her young life.  In a break with the tradition of the Victorian era in which Angela and her sister Amy grew up, their mother was very involved in their upbringing and encouraged their interest in things such as music and literature.   This fostered a love which would stay with Angela for life, as it is known that she was widely read and was a collector of early children's fiction, as well as an author in her own right.

(Published 11th May 2022) Read full article

My New Garden

You may remember my previous article from last year about my experience of moving house?

Well… this year I thought I would write about my new garden.

I moved to Hay-on-Wye in February 1994 and for 27 years we only had a balcony with our maisonette (overlooking my neighbours beautiful garden I will add) so I never had a chance to enjoy a garden myself, until last year when we moved into our new house in Chepstow. 

Daffodils / Unknown Shoots

I must admit that I am very excited about all the green shoots that have been appearing in recent weeks… I don’t know what they are, so it is very exciting watching them grow.  At the time of writing this article (mid-February) we already have snowdrops, crocuses and daffodils for sure. At the end of the season last year, we had a very good covering of cyclamen, and they are currently looking very healthy, so we are looking forward to another splash of colour from those later on in the year.

(Published 23rd Mar 2022) Read full article

A&C Black Colour Books

Adam & Charles Black publishing house was founded in Edinburgh, Scotland shortly after Adam (the ‘A’ in A&C Black) Black’s 23rd birthday in 1807, when he opened his own bookshop. Many booksellers in Edinburgh at the time were also publishers. Adam’s nephew, Charles (the ‘C’ in A&C Black), joined the business in 1834 until his death in 1854. In 1889, the business was moved from Edinburgh to Soho, London. In 2000, A&C Black was purchased and, at the time of writing, is still owned by Bloomsbury Publishing Plc.

For us, as booksellers, when someone offers us A&C Black Colour Books, we spend a lot of time checking that all the colour plates are present as it is these that give the books their value and makes them collectable. Sadly, it is common for the plates to become detached and lost from the book as the glue dries out over the years.

(Published 22nd Mar 2022) Read full article

M. Pardoe

M. Pardoe or Margot Mary Pardoe was born in August 1902 in London and was the only child to a well-off family, her father being a surgeon.

She was educated at a boarding school in Hertfordshire until she was 17.  It is said that she used only her initial M. instead of her full name, as she was teased during her younger years about how her name rhymed!  Although perhaps her publisher thought that using an initial only would make the author more appealing to a wider audience, a tactic that has worked well for some.

M. Pardoe (Photo from Book & Magazine Collector 121) /  The Far Island  

The family spent summers on the French Riviera and Pardoe lived with a family in Paris after her schooling, where she trained to be an opera singer.  During her life, her family moved around, living in London, Aberdeenshire and finally moving to Hampshire.  Pardoe would remember areas where she had lived and holidayed and use them as a base for some of the settings in her books.

(Published 1st Mar 2022) Read full article

The Kingdom of Norway

The Kingdom of Norway - a land of tolerance, respect and equality

Norway is part of Scandinavia, and its capital Oslo is on the same Latitude as the Orkney Isles.  The king of Norway is Harald V with his queen Sonja. The northern portion is mostly above the Arctic Circle with the western and eastern areas being divided by mountain ranges called Lang Mountains.  The fourth region is a narrow coastal land with many islands and narrow, steep fjords.

The international geological definition of a fjord is “a long, narrow inlet with steep sides or cliffs, created by a glacier”.  The name fjord relates to the ancient Viking phrase “where you travel across”. There are more than 1,000 fjords, some of which are famous with many tourists visiting Norway to see them.

(Published 26th Jan 2022) Read full article

The Moon

What is the orbit of the moon? Why does it appear in a different place every night when the skies are clear? Why can you see the moon during the day?

These are questions I have often asked and although I think I know the answer I decided to find out.

As always, what started out as a fairly simple question turned into a complicated one!

The giant-impact theory is the most widely accepted theory on how the moon was formed about 4.5 billion years ago. It proposes that the moon formed during a collision between the Earth and another small planet, about the size of Mars. The resultant collision ejected a lot of debris into Earth’s orbit which subsequently coalesced into the moon.

(Published 4th Jan 2022) Read full article

Trees

Trees – perhaps we take them for granted as they are always there. One of the first things that we learn in early childhood may be what a tree looks like as we incorporate them into our first works of art.  But do we always stop and think just how vital these trees are to life on our planet?  

It is said that forests and trees are the lungs of the earth and, when you think about it, how true that is. Trees absorb the carbon dioxide that we breathe out and in turn release oxygen that animals and humans need to breathe in.  It's a natural recycling process that is beneficial for all living things.

(Published 23rd Nov 2021) Read full article

The Incompleat Angler

“Many men go fishing all of their lives without knowing that it is not fish they are after” -

Henry David Thoreau

Fishing is, pun intended, a ‘catch-all’ word. It encompasses everything, from the pursuit of whitefish in the icy northern waters off the coast of Svalbard, to the poetic majesty of a brown trout rising to take a hand-tied fly in the summer sunlight on a Hampshire chalk stream. As someone once observed, there are two sorts of fisherman; those who fish for sport and those who fish for fish.

Fishing for fish, in the sense of catching food, is one of the oldest human activities, certainly pre-dating agriculture by tens of thousands of years, if we allow that collecting shellfish falls within this. Many years ago I read a fascinating book by Mark Kurlansky that looks at cod fishing and the impact the humble cod had on history. It is also a paean to the history of the Basque people, the first to develop an international fishing industry that played a huge role in the development of medieval Europe and whose pre-Columbus voyages to North America were made possible, partly by bacalhau (dried and salted codfish), the first dependable and non-perishable food stock.

(Published 27th Oct 2021) Read full article

My Experience of Moving House

It began in March 2018.  Since the death of my stepfather in March 2017 my husband and I had numerous conversations about selling our shop premises at Rose’s Books in Hay-on-Wye along with our flat above, not only to simplify our life but also to be close to family in Chepstow.  We were warned not to act too quickly after the death of a loved one so waited a full year before making a final decision. After consulting with my business partners in March 2018, it was decided that we would go ahead and put the property on the market.

Rose's Books / Packing the Books  

We were so excited to have several viewings immediately and within a couple of months an offer was made which we accepted.  Being a shop with full-time and part-time staff members we thought that it was only fair that the staff were informed of the decision and they were immediately given notice.  The two longest running staff members were given 11 weeks’ notice and their last working day was in September 2018. We arranged to have the shop closed and the books moved down to the Tintern shop, Stella Books, by mid-September.

(Published 1st Oct 2021) Read full article

A Day in the Life of a Stella & Rose’s Books Partner

What, you may wonder, do you do all day???

Quite a lot as it happens!

Firstly, most importantly, I walk my dog on the way to work. Onyx is my Hearing Dog, as mentioned in previous articles, and requires her daily constitutional come rain or shine. Sometimes I arrive at the office in a bedraggled state and Onyx in an even worse state if the weather has not been kind! Fortunately, I am out of the public eye (most of the time!) tucked away in the office upstairs.

On arriving at the office at the unearthly (to me) hour of 8.30am, I generally have half an hour before the rest of the troops arrive at 9am. This time is used very wisely to make my first cup of coffee of the day. Whilst the kettle is boiling, I turn on my PC and log in to my email which is the element that is going to dictate how my day goes… what is in store for me today?

(Published 31st Aug 2021) Read full article

Training Your Human

This month our theme is How To Train Your Human. This is taken from a book written by well-known author Sammy Vallhund to help all dogs with training their humans. Sammy is now 13 years old and this was written when he was a youngster but well-practised in all aspects of training humans and the principles still apply today.  

Statutory warning.

To comply with the law regarding books on training humans this section is to remind all dogs and especially Vallhunds that it is essential to ensure that humans continue to believe that they are in charge of Vallhunds. Our forebears have spent thousands of years conditioning humans to believe this and it is of the utmost importance that we, and our descendants, continue this deception. So without further delay – How to Train Your Human…

(Published 29th Jul 2021) Read full article

For the Love of Water

Water is so precious to all humans and the myriad life forms we share this blue planet with.  In researching this article, I have found many interesting facts.

Cenotes in Mexico (https://www.journeymexico.com) / Kariba Dam (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Kariba_Dam)  

A qanat is an ancient tunnel system built in Iran and Iraq to transport water from a reliable source of groundwater reservoirs to areas requiring irrigation.  Being underground they are naturally resistant to water loss through evaporation or natural disasters such as earthquakes.

(Published 30th Jun 2021) Read full article

Napoleon

One of the songs we were taught at primary school was “Boney was a warrior”  the lyrics of which taught me very little about Napoleon and left me fairly unmoved by the last verse which finished with “Boney broke his heart and died”.  What I have learned over the years has been from the British perspective and there are several myths and half truths that are passed on, just as with many historical figures.   

Napoleon & Josephine - A Love Story by Theo Aronson  

After a crushing defeat at Waterloo Napoleon abdicated and the British sent him in exile to St Helena – one of the remotest places on Earth where they almost certainly thought he would be forgotten. They were wrong.  He died on the island at age 51 and a mere nineteen years after his death the French people brought his body back to Paris where he was given a magnificent funeral.  A reported million people lined the route of the cortege which passed under the Arc de Triomphe and into the Royal Chapel of Les Invalides.  His tomb is a huge sarcophagus which contains six coffins made from iron, lead, beech, oak and ebony.  This is not the ending the song of my childhood suggests – far from it.

(Published 25th May 2021) Read full article