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Book Review: Valletta and the Year of Changes

This brilliant little children's book deals with resilience and resourcefulness, family, community and hope in troubling times.
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A lovely little book arrived this week entitled Valletta and the Year of Changes. Written by West Wales, Tenby born writer and published poet, Simone Mansell Broome. The cover is beautifully illustrated by Llandeilo based artist and illustrator Cerys Susannah Rees, and it doesn’t disappoint.

Basically, this is the story of several families of mice brought together by changing and challenging circumstances during a lockdown in England. That will certainly resonate with many people.

The back cover gives a little taster: ‘For Valletta Stowaway, (a fiery, busy little mouse who squeaks her mind), it’s an extremely dangerous and difficult year. But, surprisingly, extraordinary and good things happen too…’

Valletta, the rather feisty heroine, is one of five mouse cousins who feature in the book. Valletta is the little girl mouse in a denim jacket standing inside the open suitcase to the left of her older brother, Oslo, on the cover.

All the Stowaway mice are named after places which have some significance for the parent mice – either a place they have visited or come from. The book deals with resilience and resourcefulness, family, community and hope in troubling times. It is a brilliant little book, in which some of the issues it raises can be considered quite lightly or discussed in more depth. For example, with immigration very much on our minds, it’s an excellent, and thought-provoking introduction to adult subjects for quite young minds.

The bottom line is this is a lovely story, full of characters that children can relate to and would certainly make the perfect gift for children, nieces, nephews, grandchildren aged 5 to 9 years or perhaps even older.

The book is well designed and the larger size font and occasional colourful illustration contribute to a book that is inviting and doesn’t feel daunting when you open it.

We particularly liked Simone’s dedication to Roger and the mice on one of the opening pages and, also, Cerys’s touching tribute to her mum Susan.

There’s a neat little fold out on the back cover which includes a lovely, illustrated family tree. We liked this a lot – it shows a great deal of care and thought has gone into its production.

Valletta and the Year of Changes is available at selected outlets throughout Wales and the border counties. And if you think this is the end of the story for Valletta, think again. Simone says “I am already writing the ‘squeakwell’.”

How to buy…
You can order the book online from Pretty Pug Publishing at a price of £7.99.

The book is available, so far, very locally to Simone at:
* Y Pantri Bach, Drefach-Felindre
* Debbie’s Jewellery & Gifts, Newcastle Emlyn
* Ffab, Llandysul
* The Salmon Leap, Cenarth
* Stwdio 3, Cardigan
* Fynnon, Newport, Pembs
* Angel House, Newport, Pembs
* Seaways Bookshop, Fishguard
* Narberth Museum, Narberth, Pembs
as well as, of course, from the publisher – Pretty Pug Publishing – and on Amazon.

Exciting news!
Coming soon to Waterstones.

About Simone…

Simone Mansell Broome was born in Wales but has lived mostly in other places, (Berkshire, Bristol, London and Brighton). In 2007 she returned to Wales to live and jointly run a small organic farm, which became Ceridwen Centre. This family business was pretty busy until March 2020 when, suddenly, Simone regained a formerly rare commodity, time.

The things that matter most to her – apart from the written and the spoken word – are her family, the environment, her menagerie of animals, and finding humour even in the darkest of moments, being a glass-half-full kind of woman!

Simone has always written, and, prior to lockdown, she had self-published two very slim volumes, ‘Not Exactly Getting Anywhere But’ (poems) and ‘Still in the Sack with Santa’ (poems & short stories). She also published two poetry books by the more conventional route – ‘Juice of the Lemon’ and ‘Cardiff Bay Lunch’, as well as contributing to a number of anthologies.

During the craziness of 2020, Simone’s writing productivity exploded – a collaboration with an M.A. student at the University of Bucharest on the translation of 50 of Simone’s earlier poems, commissioned pieces for ITV Sport for the Cheltenham Festival of Racing and for Royal Ascot, a blog about life in West Wales during the pandemic – which she turned into an eBook, ‘A Year of Going Nowhere’, an eBook compilation of some of her performance poetry, ‘Getting Off Lightly’ and, of course, this first story of the Stowaway family of mice, ‘Valletta and the Year of Changes’, published in June 2021.

Simone is very happy to offer readings/talks based on ‘Valletta and the Year of Changes’ to schools and other groups.



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