If you’re still looking for something a little bit different to give as a gift to your 9-13 year old reader this Christmas, you might want to consider a subscription to The Loop, a new quarterly magazine (“that thinks it’s a newspaper”) for kids, their parents and teachers.
It first came to my attention because Claudia Boldt, illustrator of Star Gazers, Skyscrapers and Extraordinary Sausages, UUGGHH!, and Odd Dog (my review) is one of the movers and shakers behind this project. Like Claudia’s quirky, unusual illustrative style, The Loop too is somewhat off-beat, covering in its first issue an mixture of challenging and engaging topics to read about and activities to do.
Discussion points in Issue 1 include boys wearing skirts, edible masks and quantitative easing (yes, really). There are columns recommending music to listen to, books to read and films to watch, as well as a cookery column, comic strips, original short stories and puppets/toys to cut out and make.
This quarterly publication looks like a newspaper rather than a magazine. It’s published in full colour with both photos and original illustrations. It feels fresh, grown up, slightly nerdy and fun. If your kid already enjoys Aquila or Discovery Box and has an independent, creative spirit The Loop could be a unique addition to their reading diet.
Several years ago we went paper-free at Christmas; instead of wrapping our presents to each other in giftwrap, we started using cloth. We have a set of dedicated fabric bags of different sizes which we tie with ribbons, and as I got our wrapping cloths out for this season I shared Good Fortune in a Wrapping cloth by Joan Schoettler, illustrated by Jessica Lanan with my girls.
A tale of separation and reunion set in historical Korea, woven through with interesting cultural detail, Good Fortune in a Wrapping cloth could be a fairy tale; a king demands a seamstress leave her village to work for him, so fine is her sewing, but her pining daughter never gives up until she has what it takes to be reunited with her mother.
Schoettler’s text is full of Korean terms; on our first reading I found the number of them to be a little disruptive as we kept stopping to use the glossary at the back of the book. On subsequent readings, however, they added flavour to Schoettler’s sometimes beautiful turns of phrase such as when mother and child are reunited and “held each other like threads in a seam“. Although there are plenty of culture specific references in the text, the universal human emotions of love, loss and longing effortlessly cross time and space from historical Korea to 21st century UK.
Lanan’s soothing, beautiful watercolour illustrations are like the text – both full of specific Korean details, such as dress and architecture, but also with scenes that speak to any child anywhere; in one delightful spread a child soars high on a swing in a tree, and both my girls immediately said they wanted to be there too.
This book is definitely worth seeking out if you or your kids like to sew (perhaps pair it with one of these books), or simply enjoy reading about other times and other lives. Whilst there’s fun to be had dancing gangnam style, Good Fortune in a Wrapping cloth is a much more satisfying encounter with Korean culture.