‘Hands Up!’ – Oenone Crossley-Holland


Hands Up! - Oenone Crossley-Holland

Hands Up! – Oenone Crossley-Holland

Dear Ms Crossley-Holland, I didn’t Oink at you yesterday but I do admit I did oink it was a private joke between me and Billie. Know I do Admitt I should not of been making noises so I am sorry for making noises but yeah as I said I am only sorry for making noises. From Chantelle

When Oenone Crossley-Holland started teaching at an inner city school in London, she had no idea what to expect. She just knew that there was no going back. She would have one of the most challenging and overwhelming years of her life, in which she would get involved in the lives of some wonderfully (and sometimes horrifyingly) exuberant students, and find herself tested to the limit. In this colorful and moving account, Oenone tells of the lows and unexpected highs of the sharper end of teaching. Will she make it through the year? Will she make it through another day? Hands Up! is for anyone who’s ever worked in a school or thought about teaching. It also gives a very clear answer to those who still believe that those who can’t do, teach.

Let me start with two health warnings: firstly don’t expect this to be a book of humorous anecdotes from a secondary school teacher; secondly, don’t attempt to read this if you happen to be in the profession or have an idea of what teaching is really like. The outcome? A tedious read that seemed to take far longer than a less than 300 page book should have done.

This book follows a secondary school English teacher who is training on the Teach First scheme which was in place several years ago. This was back when English curriculum was different both for Key Stage Three and GCSE. As such it makes the book a little bit more difficult to relate to, especially if you are newly qualified. Nonetheless, the trials and tribulations that Crossley-Holland faces are generic across the years and it certainly brought back memories for me from when I was in the teaching sector.

What I found most irritating was the fact that Crossley-Holland continues to moan about the amount of work required, the lack of time she has, and how tired she feels. Yet, on the flip side, she tends to spend most of the week-nights and weekends socialising and out late. Now, don’t get me wrong, I have no problem with this, but surely from a logical perspective she is simply making things worse for herself? If it is that difficult, don’t go out each night but instead spend the time doing some of this school work that you repeatedly hark on about. It is this which made me feel impatient to finish this book because I simply could not sympathise with someone who is not making things easier for herself.

The book’s chapters reflect the half terms of a school year. Within these chapters are breaks to show different episodes whilst Crossley-Holland is teaching. This definitely made it easier to dip in and out of but I do think it made the book feel like it was dragging on far longer than it actually was. On reflection I think this book is probably best enjoyed whilst read alongside something else. That way you don’t feel too committed to reading it, and just perhaps enjoy the anecdotes far more.

Although I haven’t read many other teaching books, I am sure there are far more enjoyable memoirs out there than ‘Hands Up!’ can offer. If you really want to have an insight into the teaching profession, you might want to give this a go. However, Crossley-Holland is simply irritating and I think there are better written examples on the shelves. Quite frankly I’m a bit disappointed I wasted time to read this and even now I think perhaps two stars is being a bit generous. On a final note, the author writes a column for a broadsheet newspaper so maybe her articles are far more interesting and enjoyable to read than this memoir.


Yay! More Bob!

‘The World According to Bob’ – James Bowen


The World According to Bob - James Bowen

The World According to Bob – James Bowen

‘Since Bob has appeared, I’ve made huge strides in my life. For more than a decade I was a homeless drug addict. I was lost to the world and had forgotten what was important in life. Now I’ve got myself back on my two feet, but as I put the past behind me, I’m still stepping unsteadily into the future. I still need help in the right direction. Bob is always there to offer guidance and friendship.’

James and his street cat Bob have been on a remarkable journey together. In the years since their story ended in the best-selling ‘A Street Cat Named Bob’ James, with Bob’s help, has begun to find his way back to the real world. Almost every day, Bob provides moments of intelligence, bravery and humour, at the same time opening his human friend’s eyes to important truths about friendship, loyalty, trust – and the meaning of happiness.

In the continuing tale of their life together James shows the many ways in which Bob has been his protector and guardian angel through times of illness, hardship, even life-threatening danger. As they high five together for their crowds of admirers, James knows that the tricks he’s taught Bob are nothing compared to the lessons he’s learnt from his street-wise cat.

The review of Bowen’s first book, ‘A Street Cat Names Bob’, left me wishing that Bob had more spotlight. This time, author has got it just right, letting us know more about Bob’s characteristics and his escapades, with Bowen’s life wrapped around the story.

Once again, this story is delightful and I am certain cat owners can relate to so much that we find out about for Bob. He is definitely a loveable cat and I think that even if you are more of the dog persuasion, you will find it very difficult to not fall in love with this furry feline. It was so easy to imagine what Bob gets up to, but I do wish that there had been some photographs included in the story, even if they were ones taken by Bob’s London-street fans.

What I liked most of all about ‘The World According to Bob’, is the happy ending that is finally realised by Bowen and Bob. After reading so much about their struggles in the first book and most of this one, it was so nice to see Bowen’s life turn a corner. The book finishes at the point of publication of first book and the closing comments from Bowen to Bob were really quite touching. There are some dark times in this story and I think this just makes the ending even more enduring.

I really enjoyed reading this book and feel it was better than the first. Bowen doesn’t provide an epilogue to say what he and Bob are up to these days, but I guess this just reinforces the belief that life is now a lot better for this duo. I can’t see how another book can be churned out but hope to see Bob about in the future!

Bob needs a little more of the spotlight

‘A Street Cat Named Bob’ – James Bowen


A Street Cat Named Bob - James Bowen

A Street Cat Named Bob – James Bowen

When James Bowen found an injured, ginger street cat curled up in the hallway of his sheltered accommodation, he had no idea just how much his life was about to change. James was living hand to mouth on the streets of London and the last thing he needed was a pet.

Yet James couldn’t resist helping the strikingly intelligent tom cat, whom he quickly christened Bob. He slowly nursed Bob back to health and then sent the cat on his way, imagining he would never see him again. But Bob had other ideas.

Soon the two were inseparable and their diverse, comic and occasionally dangerous adventures would transform both their lives, slowly healing the scars of each other’s troubled pasts.

‘A Street Cat Named Bob’ is a moving and uplifting story that will touch the heart of anyone who reads it. 

This is a delightful true story of how a stray cat turned one man’s life around. The impact Bob has on James, a busking recovering drug addict is amazing and I challenge that you won’t feel all warm and fuzzy after reading this story. 

This autobiography is definitely a must-read for cat-lovers. I am a massive fan of felines so if you are reading this review and have more of a dog persuasion, then I can’t guarantee that you will get as much enjoyment from this story. The descriptions of Bob’s behaviour are delightful and I recognised many of his characteristics in my own cats. Bob is such a delightful animal and inspires James to clean up his act and take responsibility for his actions. It is difficult not to fall in love with this ginger tom.

Of course, this book wouldn’t work if it was just about Bob and I guess it would become quite dull. Readers see how James alters over the story and how much his relationship means to him. My only wish is that Bob was given a bit more of the spotlight because the narrative did get a little repetitive at times. That being said, Bowen provides a snapshot into his life and the politics of working on the streets to earn a living. He also throws in some cat facts along the way which I couldn’t help but repeat back to my husband. 

This is an interesting read and for me proves why cats are such great companions. I have learnt that there are more books in the series about Bob which I would be keen to read, but hope the author isn’t cashing in on this heart – warming story. Straight after reading this book I couldn’t help but look up Bob on Youtube – he is delightful as he seems in the book!