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If you’re looking for the perfect summer reads whilst soaking up the sun, then have a scroll through our 12 recommended titles for this summer.

Including some brand new titles for this year, with a few Batsford classics thrown in, this list of beautiful books will transport you to a sunny paradise. Everything from drawing and painting, to poetry and folklore, find a title or two that will inspire your imagination at home or on holiday..


Lido – A dip into outdoor swimming pools: the history, design and people behind them

Christopher Beanland, £20.00

Few experiences can beat diving into a pool in the fresh air, swimming with blue skies above you. Whether it’s a dip into a busy and bustling city pool on a sweltering summer day, or taking the plunge in icy waters, the lido provides a place of peace in a frenetic world. This book is a celebration of outdoor swimming – looking at the history, design and architecture of pools, as well as the social aspect. Architectural historian and travel writer Christopher Beanland leaps into pools around the world and finds out why it is that people love to swim outdoors.


Forever Flowers – Growing and arranging dried flowers

Ann Lindsay, £14.99

Perfect for arranging the beautiful summer flowers from your garden – learn how to grow and dry flowers, plants and herbs to create dried floral arrangements that will breathe fresh life and style into your home without breaking the bank! Suitable for both experienced professionals and hopeful newcomers to the art of drying flowers, the information in the book is an invaluable resource for all to reference and return to. Anyone can create everlasting arrangements for friends, home or occasions that can be cherished for years to come.


Lockdown Secrets – Postcards from the pandemic

Eleanor Tattersfield, £12.99

No poolside holiday is complete without a hint of scandal – Lockdown Secrets is a compelling collection of anonymous postcards sent during lockdown, revealing hilarious, salacious, relatable and sometimes heartbreaking secret confessions.

In the thick of the 2021 coronavirus lockdown, designer and shopowner Eleanor Tattersfield put out a call on Instagram: ‘I’ll send you a postcard, you send me a secret’. Lockdown Secrets is an astonishing record of what happened next. Postcards poured in. This beautiful book brings together the best of what Eleanor received, and all human life is here: furtive infidelities, bad behaviour in the local bakery, sneaking off for baths during a busy homeschooling schedule, rediscovered marital bliss, and, occasionally, poignant moments of sadness and despair.

We’ve all been through the lockdown experience, and every reader will find something to relate to in this fascinating collection, a perfect snapshot of an extraordinary time.


Millie Marotta’s Tropical Wonderland, Pocket Edition

Millie Marotta, £4.99

Travelling with small children? Tired of entertaining them on a four-hour flight? Millie Marotta brings her bestselling colouring books to you in travel size! Escape to your very own tropical wonderland with this beautiful colouring book that can be enjoyed by all the family. Lose yourself in a riot of colouring in and drawing as you bring the exotic creatures and plants in Millie Marotta’s Tropical Wonderland to life. Whether it’s to add to the fine lines on trees or add a splash of colour to the feathers of a tropical parrot, explore the rainforest further and you will find extraordinary flowers, birds, butterflies and reptiles, including a rainbow boa with shiny scales crying out for a touch of colour.


Bedside Companion for Gardeners

Jane McMorland Hunter, £20,00

If you love to spend your summer cultivating your garden in the sunshine, then Bedside Companion for Gardeners is the title for you. A treasure trove of green-fingered inspiration, full of practical advice that blends seamlessly with poetry and prose from intrepid gardeners past and present. Dip in and out of this collection with an entry for every night of the year that draws on writing through the ages and from across the globe.


New Ideas in Botanical Painting

Carolyn Jenkins and Helen Birch, £19.99

Renowned botanical artist and professional gardener, Carolyn Jenkins combines her love of art and gardening to create stunning compositions with vibrant colours that leap from the page. For the artist and botanist, this beautiful book is the perfectly relaxing way to spend your summer. Spanning from chapters on time well-spent in the garden and traditional botanical painting to contemporary ideas with photography, this practical guide contains all the techniques an practice you need to create beautiful botanical art.

Check out Carolyn’s award-winning art on her instagram page here to get inspired..


Sunlight and Shadows in Watercolour – painting light from interiors to landscapes

Lucy Willis, £19.99

Published in 2015, this beautiful watercolour book is a fabulous addition to any summer art collection. Focusing on the effects of light – bright sunlight, shadows, dappled light and night-time scenes, bestselling artist Lucy Willis shares her professional tips and painting secrets on painting sunlight and shadows. The themes and subjects covered are Landscape, Water, Gardens, Architecture, Interiors, Still Life, Portraits and the importance of keeping a sketchbook handy; particularly on holiday!

Lucy Willis encourages all watercolourists, whatever their level, to exploit the versatile effects of watercolour and produce exciting, atmospheric work of their own.


City Sketching Reimagined

Jeanette Barnes and Paul Brandford, £16.99

Brand new and published earlier this year, this exciting and inspirational title is a charming guide to sketching in towns and cities from world-acclaimed artists Jeanette Barnes and Paul Brandford. If you would love to capture the bustling city that you have travelled to, the traffic from the safety of the pavement, or the elderly couple drinking their morning coffee on the table next to yours at that tiny cafe on the corner, then this book is the perfect title to teach you. With easily digested bite-size entries, it introduces many types of art materials, their uses and a number of insights and exercises to build confidence in a range of approaches to drawing.

Mercurial, inspirational, practical and charming, this guide covers everything from architecture to accidental paintings, cocktails to clouds, smudges to skyscrapers and will inspire you to take your sketchbook with you all summer!

Check out Jeanette’s instagram page here and Paul’s here to get yourself started..


Textures from Nature in Textile Art

Marian Jazmik, £22.95

Summer is all about appreciating the beauty of nature, so harness the beauty of the natural world to create unique textile art pieces. Acclaimed textile artist Marian Jazmik shows how to use unusual recycled and repurposed materials combined with traditional fabric and thread. Exploring nature as a constant source of inspiration, she shows how to turn a chance spotting of lichen on a tree trunk or a scattering of autumn leaves into glorious textile or mixed-media art. Packed with practical tips, inspiration and illustrated throughout with glorious examples of Marian’s work, this book will provide you with endless imaginative ideas for distilling the wonders of nature into your own textile art.


A Nature Poem for Every Day of the Year

Jane McMorland Hunter, £18.99

This beautiful anthology brings you 365 poems celebrating nature and the changing seasons. For a contemplative moment in the sun, this is the perfect poolside companion for any nature or poetry fan, featuring famous odes from big-name poets alongside unsung poems from less-well-known writers. Featuring the works of Wordsworth, Dickinson, Keats, Blake and many many more, whisk yourself away to a veritable garden of eden for a few hours in the afternoon.


Goblin Market – An Illustrated Poem

Christina Rossetti, Kirsty Gunn, Georgie McAusland, £12.99

If it’s a story that you want, then Christina Rossetti’s classic poem, Goblin Market reads like a picture storybook. Originally written by Christina Rossetti in 1862, the poem tells the story of Lizzie and Laura, who are tempted by the fruit sold by the goblin merchants. In this fully illustrated and beautiful volume, illustrator Georgie McAusland brings the words and story to life. Recently shortlisted for V&A illustration awards, as well as longlisted for the World Illustration Awards, this is 2022’s hidden gem and a stunning addition to any bookshelf.


Faeries, Elves and Goblins – The Old Stories and fairy tales

Rosalind Kerven, £11.99

Continuing the fairytales and folklore theme; Faeries, Elves and Goblins are 25 stories drawing on folklore from the rich narrative heritage of Britain and Ireland.

Marvel over ancient spells to summon faeries to your house, tremble at the shapeshifting powers of dangerous faery queens, lose yourself amongst the illusions of Faeryland and learn how to protect family members from the terrors of faery abduction. Interspersed with facts on faery folklore, these tales cover faery morals, elvish misdemeanours, the spells cast by goblins and the sightings of the creatures, as well as their dealings with mortals.

With charming illustrations from favourite illustrators throughout, whisk yourself away to your very own neverland this summer with this beautiful little book.


On the 12th of May, National Limerick Day, Mick Twister will make you howl with laughter at the achievements and mishaps of history.

Travelling chronologically through the milestones of time, this compilation of 100 lively and humorous limericks takes us back to the ancient civilisations and beyond, to fill your afternoon with an abundance of grins and giggles.


There once was an ancient Egyptian

Whose beauty defied all description.

She was driven to take

Her life with a snake

Not having strong drugs on prescription.


So was Cleopatra as good-looking as she’s cracked up to be? Mick reckons so – “she certainly had pulling power, but then she was probably the richest woman in the Mediterranean. Plus, all those baths in asses’ milk must have given her a complexion to die for!”


Fast forward to the Renaissance… a mighty movement of art, architecture, philosophy and literature that flooded across Europe in the 15th and 16th centuries. Amongst these genius thinkers and flourishing artists was Leonardo da Vinci, a painter from Florence.


Leonardo, the Renaissance man

Did much more than most people can –

Art, music, botany,

Faults? There were not any

(Ignore that old novel by Dan).

“In between painting the ‘Mona Lisa’ and ‘The Last Supper’, Leonardo played a mean lyre, and studied botany and human anatomy – as well as inventing the helicopter.”


Come the revolution era in Western Europe and the voices of women are starting to be heard. Mary Wollstonecraft Godwin wrote the Vindication of the Rights of Women, laying out the principles of gender equality paving the way for women’s suffrage:


There was a young woman named Mary

Whose lifestyle was seen as contrary.

An unmarried mum,

Her time has now come

But many men then found her scary.


A scandalous woman who wrote the gruesomely shocking Frankenstein novel, her daughter Mary Shelley eventually became even more famous than her equally scandalous mum.


Churchill the great wartime leader

An artist, a writer and reader,

Made excellent speeches

Like ‘fight on the beaches’

But drunk, he was quite a rude bleeder.


Churchill was best known for his cigars, his speeches – and his drinking. In later life, he drank a bottle of champagne with lunch and another with his evening meal. Perhaps there is merit in his thinking after all…


Mick Twister is a London-based journalist and cryptic crossword compiler for the Times. Since inventing the @twitmerick in May 2011 he has been tweeting the news in daily limericks. Twitmericks have been reproduced by the Washington Post and the New Statesman and will make you smile at any time of the day.

His book A History of the World in 100 Limericks is the funniest way to learn about the past, as he cleverly raids the tomes of history and picks at the bones of the world’s greatest political figures, moments and events.


Illustrations by Lucy Davey


Still searching for the perfect Mother’s Day gift? Is your mum green-fingered? Does she love to draw and paint? Or is she great with a needle and thread? Whatever type of mum you have then keep scrolling, because we have a book to suit all tastes!

Have a browse through our selected titles to inspire your choice on Mother’s Day this year. All of our books are available to buy from good bookshops, via or simply just click on the book’s title for links to find yourself a copy elsewhere online.


The one who loves her garden

Bedside Companion for Gardeners

Jane McMorland Hunter, £20.00

For every mum who loves to grow things, this book is an eclectic collection of fact and fiction, fantasy and experience, incorporating prose, poetry and practical advice for every day of the year.


The one who’s working from home

Lockdown Secrets

Eleanor Tattersfield, £12.99

Got a mum who needs a giggle during her long day? This miniature book of anonymous postcards sent during lockdown reveals the hilarious, salacious, relatable and outrageous secret confessions of people surviving the seemingly never-ending period.


The one who loves a good movie

Atlas of Imagined Places

Matt Brown, Rhys B. Davies, £25.00

If your mum loves to delve into fantasy then look no further for your perfect Mother’s Day gift. Encompassing a stunning map collection of invented geography drawn from the world’s imagination, this fascinating and beautiful book will show you that the revolution at Animal Farm happened right next to Winnie the Pooh’s home. From the Republic of Gilead to Harry Potter’s Hogwarts, this is the perfect gift for any mum who likes to be whisked away on a magical adventure.


The one who loves to paint

New Ideas in Botanical Painting

Carolyn Jenkins, Helen Birch, £19.99

This practical guide contains all the techniques and practice you need to create beautiful botanical art. A gem for any mum who loves to paint as much as she loves to garden, renowned botanical artist and professional gardener, Carolyn Jenkins combines her love of art and gardening to create stunning compositions.


The one who loves a story book

Goblin Market

Christina Rossetti, Kirsty Gunn, Georgie McAusland, £12.99

The perfect Mother’s Day gift for any poetry enthusiast, this beautifully illustrated volume of the classic Christina Rossetti poem, Goblin Market, which resonates still today, tells the story of two sisters drifting apart as Laura succumbs to the forbidden fruit sold by the goblins.


The one who brings ‘girl power’

Dark Fairytales of Fearless Women

Rosalind Kerven, £12.99

For the strong and courageous mums, this beautiful book contains a rich collection of fairy tales in which magic exists, hope wins and every woman’s heart is alive with courage!


The one who soaks up some culture

Building Utopia

Nicholas Kenyon, £40.00

For the cultural mum, this magnum opus of architecture and artistry is a sumptuous celebration of London’s internationally famous Barbican Arts Centre for the 40th anniversary of its opening in 1982. With listings of Barbican events from 1982 to the present day, and snippets of history from the many people associated with the centre, this fascinating book is an invaluable companion to one of the world’s most important cultural spaces.


The one who likes some quiet reflection

Nature Writing for Every Day of the Year

Jane McMorland Hunter, £20.00

If your mum loves to relax with a book in her hand, she should keep this wonderful celebration of nature by her bedside and it will become the perfect start to every day. With entries from Virginia Woolf on snails, Kenneth Grahame on the charms of a riverbank and David Attenborough on our responsibility to the natural environment, this is the perfect companion to help her mind escape into the world of nature.


The one who loves to colour

Millie Marotta’s Secrets of the Sea

Millie Marotta, £9.99

Treat mum to an afternoon of colouring with this stunning new book from the author of the Sunday Times bestseller, Millie Marotta’s Animal Kingdom. Sail away on a sea of fine illustration and intricate drawings.


The one who can make anything

Fragmentation and Repair

Shelley Rhodes, £22.95

For the fashion and textiles creative, this beautifully illustrated tome explores the concepts used in mixed-media and textiles from a leading artist. Including the Japanese concepts of wabi-sabi (finding beauty in imperfection) and mottainai (using every last scrap), as well as using salvaged and recycled materials and repurposing household items to stretch your mum’s creativity.

Explore the imagined places in Central America and the Caribbean in this extract from Atlas of Imagined Places, which was awarded Illustrated Travel Book of the Year in the Edward Stanford Travel Writing Awards this week.

by Matt Brown and Rhys B. Davies. Illustrations by Mike Hall.


Central America and the Caribbean: The Old New Word

The history of the USA has become so predominant in popular culture that it is easy to forget that the first Europeans to permanently settle in the Americas were not the Pilgrims of Massachusetts but the conquistadors and missionaries of the Spanish Empire, come to the New World to preach Christianity to the natives and pick their pockets. It was Spain’s early successes in the New World that led to a boom climate of expedition, exploration and exploitation by the French, Dutch, Portuguese and English, cultures whose descendant nations now comprise the majority of the Americas.

The Spanish, of course, left their own mark, branding this region with their genetics, language, faith and culture. Present-day Mexico and the nations of the Caribbean and Central America comprise a vibrant region that has mingled European and American influences into a syncretic society. Where else might one experience something like the Day of the Dead, a celebration merging Roman Catholicism with pre-Columbian tradition? It is unsurprising then that the stories and legends associated with this region should also reflect such a dynamic mix of cultures. If we had to pick just one entry to exemplify this, it would be Robert Rodriguez’s From Dusk till Dawn, which begins as a fairly conventional armed-robbers-takehostages romp, turns into a vampiric horror, and ends with an Aztec twist. Seek La Tetilla del Diablo, a little way south of the border.

The Caribbean offers a saltier take on this rich mix of cultures. This is a maritime space, and the fictional world’s hotspot for shipwrecks, buried treasure, castaways and comedy pirates. We’ve added over 100 islands to the familiar West Indies, and even a pastiche of the Bermuda Triangle – one of many additions from the Pirates of the Caribbean franchise. Taken as a whole, this most diverse of maps contains bandits, Aztecs, drug cartels, space elevators, dinosaurs, adventurers, shipwrecked heroes and pirates. Lots, and lots, and lots of pirates.


During the Spanish conquests of the 16th century, the Aztecs placed 882 pieces of gold in a stone chest and presented it to conquistador Hernán Cortés, as payment to stop his slaughter of their people. When the gold only fuelled Cortés’s greed, a terrible curse fell upon the treasure. Within a day of leaving port, doom overtook the ship carrying the chest and its golden cargo back to Spain, and it was subsequently wrecked on an uncharted island. In the centuries since, the curse of the gold seeped into the very rock and stone of the place, transforming it into a bleak and desolate haunt; an island of death, the dreaded Isla de Muerta.

So goes the backstory to the swashbuckling hit Pirates of the Caribbean, Curse of the Black Pearl, and how could we resist the chance to include Isla de Muerta on our map? Of course, the problem is that the island itself cannot be found, unless you’re lucky enough to have a magic compass to hand, but we can use the evidence of the films as a guide.

Wherever it may lie, the Isla de Muerta still falls within the Caribbean (it’s in the title after all), and many of the surrounding locations are real. Heading to the island in pursuit of the cursed Black Pearl, Captain Jack Sparrow and blacksmith Will Turner leave from historic Port Royal, Jamaica, and sail to pick up a crew from Tortuga, off the north coast of Haiti. Turning east from here would put the Isla de Muerta somewhere in the northern end of the Lesser Antilles, which is where we’ve chosen to chart the Black Pearl’s fearsome home port. As it happens, this also places it as a neighbour of that other piratical island of death: Treasure Island.

‘In this map we see more wrecks, pirate lairs and desert islands than anywhere else in the atlas’



Robert Louis Stevenson may not have invented pop culture’s vision of the Golden Age of Sail, but he certainly codified it. His classic adventure Treasure Island bequeathed to the world a romantic paradigm best encapsulated in Long John Silver, the ruthless sea cook complete with peg leg and parrot.

Although never stated outright, it is commonly assumed that Treasure Island itself lay somewhere in the Caribbean, forever associating the region with buccaneers and buried gold. There is, of course, truth behind the stories. Central America was once the Spanish Main, and these waters saw whole fleets of treasure ships carrying plundered wealth back to Europe – a tempting prize for any pirate worth his salt.

Hence, in this map we see more wrecks, pirate lairs and desert islands than anywhere else in the atlas. There’s booty to be found everywhere, be it hidden in the caves |of Monkey Island, or secluded in the offshore accounts of the Payment Islands. And, of course, somewhere in these parts lies the dreaded Isla de Muerta, just described.

But beyond the exploits of figures like Robinson Crusoe (located with more certainty near Tobago), Horatio Pugwash, Guybrush Threepwood and Jack Sparrow (apologies, Captain Jack Sparrow), at a glance it becomes obvious that this corner of the world continues to be colonized by writers and adventurers into the present day. Here we find countless holiday getaways, snuggled alongside the island lairs of fiends such as Cobra Commander and Black Hat, forever plotting their diabolic schemes.

And on the far side of Costa Rica, we discover Isla Nublar, and the nearby island cluster known as Las Cinco Muertes – the Five Deaths – well named indeed, for here are the lost worlds of Jurassic Park, where genetically re-created dinosaurs once again rule the Earth!

Enjoyed this blog post? Find more fictional locations and the stories behind them in Atlas of Imagined Places: From Lilliput to Gotham City by Matt Brown and Rhys B. Davies, with illustrations by Mike Hall.



A mix of fact and fiction, fantasy and experience, the Bedside Companion for Gardeners is a treasure trove of green-fingered inspiration where practical advice blends seamlessly with poetry and prose from intrepid gardeners past and present. Dip in and out of this collection with an entry for every night of the year that draws on writing through the ages and from across the globe.

The book is compiled by Jane McMorland Hunter, a keen gardener herself and passionate about books and poetry. For November, we find garden writing and poems celebrating autumn, including The Deserted Garden by Elizabeth Barrett Browning:

The Deserted Garden

Verses 1–6 | Elizabeth Barrett Browning (1806–1861)

I mind me in the days departed,
How often underneath the sun
With childish bounds I used to run
To a garden long deserted.

The beds and walks were vanished quite;
And wheresoe’er had struck the spade,
The greenest grasses Nature laid,
To sanctify her right.

I called the place my wilderness,
For no one entered there but I;
The sheep looked in, the grass to espy,
And passed it ne’ertheless.

The trees were interwoven wild,
And spread their boughs enough about
To keep both sheep and shepherd out,
But not a happy child.

Adventurous joy it was for me!
I crept beneath the boughs,
and found A circle smooth of mossy ground
Beneath a poplar tree.

Old garden rose-trees hedged it in,
Bedropt with roses waxen-white,
Well satisfied with dew and light,
And careless to be seen.


bedside companion for gardeners

From Bedside Companion for Gardeners: An anthology of garden writing for every night of the year, edited by Jane McMorland Hunter. Out now!

Gifting season is here! And with Gift Wrap Green, generosity doesn’t have to be incompatible with a sustainable lifestyle. In the book, Camille Wilkinson shares tips for how to wow friends and family with beautifully wrapped gifts while minimising waste. Here she shows how to make two different fabric bows.

by Camille Wilkinson

For those occasions when you want something a little less formal than a traditional satin ribbon bow, these two fabric bows are ideal. The burlap bow has a rustic charm and the rag bow brings a touch of shabby chic to your gift wraps. I made mine from an old cotton pillowcase
but a combination of fabric, ribbon and lace could be used.



What you need
Burlap ribbon | Jute, twine or other sturdy thread | Scissors

burlap bow step 1

  1. Lay out a length of burlap ribbon horizontally and, taking the two ends, cross over in front as shown.burlap bow step 2
  2. Pinch the centre of the ribbon to form a bow and secure with a length of jute, twine or any other sturdy thread.



What you need
Old cotton pillowcase | Sturdy coordinating thread | Scissors

  1. Tear five or six long strips of fabric 1.5cm (approx. ½in) wide, working along the grain of an old cotton pillowcase.
  2. Lay out the strips horizontally and leaving all but one strip in place, bring all the loose ends to cross over at the front to form the structure of the bow (see Burlap Bow, step 1). Next, using a length of sturdy coordinating thread, pinch the centre of the loosely formed bow and secure at that point with a single tie. You will have one long length remaining with which to wrap the bow around your gift in step 4.
  3. Adjust the fabric loops to separate and arrange the layers. Once satisfied, pull the tie taut again and complete the knot to hold the bow fast. You may wish to add a button or other embellishment at this point.
  4. Finally, attach to the gift and trim the ends.

gift wrap gree

Find more ideas for sustainable gift wrapping in Gift Wrap Green: Techniques for beautiful, recyclable gift wrapping by Camille Wilkinson. Photograph by Michael Wicks. Illustrations by Georgie McAusland.

Sail away on an ocean odyssey with best-selling illustrator Millie Marotta with this free colouring sheet from her new book!

In Secrets of the Sea, Millie takes to you on a voyage of discovery from the Arctic waters to the balmy Australian coast. Swim with dolphins, narwhals, manatees, and manta ray. Look up to the cries of albatrosses, pelicans and little auks. Grab your pencils and bring to life jellyfish, puffins and polar bears.

The watery world is particularly close to Millie’s heart and she brings her passion to these intricate drawings of shells, pebbles, corals and barnacles. She includes cliffs, reefs, waves and islands to help set the scene. Secrets of the Sea is a must for all colouring fans!

Download your free whale colouring sheet from Secrets of the Sea below. Get creative and don’t forget to add your masterpiece to Millie’s colouring gallery.

secrets of the sea

Millie Marotta’s Secrets of the Sea is available now.

The whale in this blog post is coloured by Lisa Duggan.

The hit Netflix series ‘The Queen’s Gambit’ made many of us reach for our chess sets. Based on a novel with the same name by Walter Tevis, ‘The Queen’s Gambit’ tells the story of chess prodigy Beth Harmon, set in 1950s USA. While the story is fictional, Tevis captured many of the qualities of World Chess Champion Bobby Fischer when he created Beth Harmon. Here, Andrew Soltis, author of Bobby Fischer Rediscovered identifies five similarities between Beth and Bobby.

by Andrew Soltis

1.They were both prodigies

Early in the TV series Beth is described as a prodigy. The only prodigy of that era, the 1950s, was Fischer. Winning game 5 helped him earn the title of international grandmaster at age 15.

2. Speed is their signature

Beth plays her moves remarkably quickly, almost without thinking about them. Fischer made this kind of speed famous in game 29. His opponent exhausted his allotted 150 minutes and lost. Fischer spent only ten minutes to establish a winning position.

3. The effect they have on their opponents

Beth’s opponents run a gamut from the stonefaced world champion Borgov to others who reveal all of their feelings when they lose to her. Fischer forced Soviet grandmaster Yefim Geller to abandon his poker face in game 26. He was an emotional wreck when he resigned.

4. They shared a passion for one particular chess opening

Beth and Benny Watts shared a passion with Bobby – analysing a chess opening called the Najdorf Variation of the Sicilian Defence. Fischer’s unparalleled expertise is shown in game 49.

5. They played multiple opponents simultaneously

We see how quickly Beth is improving when she gives a ‘simultaneous exhibition’ and beat Benny and two other players in separate games. Fischer gave ‘simuls’ spectacular recognition when he gave up tournament chess in 1964 in favour a national exhibition tour. His victory over Hoppe is one of the finest he played on the tour.

bobby fischer rediscovered

Bobby Fischer Rediscovered features analysis of 106 classic Fischer games, including rarely seen ‘lost’ games. With new insights into what made the enigmatic Fischer play – and act – the way he did. Written by International Grandmaster Andrew Soltis who played Fischer and also reported, as a journalist, on the American’s legendary career.

Whether you’re looking for fun activities to do with the kids or are in need of something relaxing to take your mind off the news, we could probably all do with some more colouring in our lives at the moment.

That’s why we’re offering you a bumper selection of free Millie Marotta colouring sheets. Click on the images below to download, then print them out and colour away.

Don’t forget to share the joy of colouring with your loved ones. Share this post with friends and family so they can get colouring too. And fill our digital world with colour by uploading a picture of your finished masterpiece on social media using tag #MillieMarotta and to Millie’s colouring gallery.



The colouring sheets feature illustrations from Millie Marotta’s bestselling books Animal Kingdom, Beautiful Birds and Treetop Treasures, Curious Creatures and Tropical Wonderland (also available as Pocket Colouring editions); and Millie’s new book, Millie Marotta’s Woodland Wild.

Happy colouring!

From eco-friendly bows to Japanese fabric wrapping, Camille Wilkinson shows how to wow friends and family with beautifully wrapped gifts while minimising waste in Gift Wrap Green. Here, Camille shows how to transform an old sweater into fun sustainable gift wrapping.


Transform a favourite sweater that has seen better days into a stylish wrap to make a presentation sleeve for a bottle of wine, or explore one of the variation ideas for more inspiration.


sustainable sweater gift wrapping


What you need

Wine bottle
An old sweater
Needle and thread
Ribbon (optional)

  1. Insert the bottle into the sleeve of the sweater to measure where to cut. The cuff should start just below the top of your bottle. Mark the bottle length and remove. Cut the sweater sleeve off so that it is at least 3cm (1¼ in) longer than your bottle. (If you would prefer a nice snug fit, use a child’s jumper, but do make sure the sleeve is long enough.)
  2. Thread the needle with a double thickness of thread and run it through the loose loops at the cut end of the sweater sleeve. Pull gently to gather and tie off.
  3. You can leave the cuff end as it is, fold or roll it, or tie it with a ribbon.



To make a gift bag

Cut the sleeve to the desired length, turn it inside out and sew straight across the raw end. Turn through to the right side and finish off with a ribbon to close.

To make a woollen belly band

Neatly cut off the ribbed waist of a child’s jumper and slide it onto your wrapped box. You are looking for a snug fit, and if using an adult sweater, this could be achieved by using the cuff.







gift wrap green

Find more ideas on sustainable gift wrapping in Camille’s book Gift Wrap Green – out now!


Photographs by Michael Wicks.

If the Queen’s Gambit TV-series has got you inspired to play chess, you’re not alone. Online chess playing site reported a five-fold increase of daily sign-ups to the site following the show’s release and Washington Post wrote that ‘The pandemic sparked an interest in chess. “The Queen’s Gambit” made it explode.’

In this blog post, we explain the opening move that inspired the name of the book and TV series. The Queen’s Gambit (1 d4 d5 2 c4) is an opening strategy by White to try and occupy the centre of the board. Or as Sean Marsh puts it in The Batsford Book of Chess ‘White is offering a temporary pawn sacrifice to try to tempt Black into giving up the centre.’

The move can either be accepted by Black taking the pawn (dxc4) or declined. Marsh explains that ‘after 2 … dxc4 (the Queens Gambit Accepted) White can either rush to occupy the centre with his pawns – 3 e4 – or develop more methodically and occupy a little later.’ He also points out that ‘there is nothing wrong with playing the Black side of the Queen’s Gambit Accepted. But some players feel uncomfortable allowing their opponents an obvious advantage in space. Therefore, the most popular and solid reply is 2 … e6 (The Queen’s Gambit Declined). The next few moves are all about exerting pressure on the centre of the board.’

Below we take a closer look at both the Queen’s Gambit Declined and the Queen’s Gambit Accepted – extracted from the show’s protagonist Beth Harmon’s favourite book Modern Chess Openings.

queen's gambit declined



1 d4 d5 2 c4 e6

The Queen’s Gambit (1 d4 d5 2 c4) is the keystone to an offensive plan by White on the left hand side of the board. The character of the game differs greatly from that of king pawn openings, which often quickly result in open clashes. The Queen’s Gambit takes the game to a strategic battle where the tactical clashes are delayed until the middlegame. The offer of a pawn with 2 c4 is what gives the opening its edge, as the c-pawn attacks Black’s central strongpoint. However the “gambit” in the opening’s name is rather a misnomer as Black cannot really hold on to the pawn. There is also a stark difference from the King’s Gambit in that the white king’s safety is not compromised by the pawn advances on the left hand side of the board.

The Queen’s Gambit is one of the oldest openings, first mentioned in the Göttingen manuscript of 1490, then later the subject of analyses by Salvio and Greco in the early seventeenth century. Theorists in the nineteenth century discussed the best way to meet the gambit. The majority of chess writers, starting with Jaenisch (1843), seemed to be of the opinion that holding the centre with 2…e6 was the best defence. After this move there are many divergences, some depending on what White does and others on Black’s choices.

Strategically, White’s plan when playing 2 c4 is to attack the centre and remove Black’s d-pawn from its central position so that White is free to advance the e-pawn to e4. By playing 2…e6 Black frustrates his opponent’s plan but imprisons the light-squared bishop. Black will often try to imitate his opponent by attacking White’s d-pawn with a timely …c5. In the course of this struggle one side or the other will often accept structural weaknesses in return for dynamic strengths. Isolated and hanging pawns abound for both sides in this group of openings.

queen's gambit accepted


1 d4 d5 2 c4 dxc4

The most straightforward defence to a gambit is usually to accept the pawn and make the opponent prove the worth of the sacrifice. This, however, is not the plan behind accepting the Queen’s Gambit. Attempting to hold on to the pawn usually leads to trouble. Yet if Black uses the time White takes to recapture the pawn for development, then he can count on a safe journey through the opening stage. As opposed to the King’s Gambit Accepted with its many sacrifices, the Queen’s Gambit Accepted is a safe and solid choice, albeit somewhat stodgy.

The opening dates back to Damiano in 1512. In the early centuries Black would try to hold on to the booty, which gave the opening a bad name. It took until the twentieth century for the modern concept behind 2…dxc4 to come to the fore. Black plays for free development and to saddle White with an isolated d-pawn after …c5 and …cxd4. Black’s “problem child” of the Queen’s Gambit Declined – the light squared bishop – always finds an active post on g4 or b7 in the Queen’s Gambit Accepted.

The disadvantage of 2…dxc4 is that Black gives up the centre. With nothing on d5 blocking the lines, White obtains active pieces and freedom of action. When the isolated pawn arises on d4, White often has good attacking chances as this pawn may threaten to advance, opening lines of attack. Yet this advance can also lead to wholesale exchanges, producing sterile equality. For particularly this reason, the Queen’s Gambit Accepted is considered a pretty safe opening.

modern chess openings as seen in the queen's gambit

Extracted from Batsford’s Modern Chess Openings by Nick de Fimian, available as an ebook now and in paperback from the end of December. 

batsford book of chess featuring the queen's gambit and other strategies

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