Reading Matters- children’s book news

Welcome to this week’s look at what has been happening in the world of children’s books. But first, don’t forget that Libraries Week takes place between the 3rd and 9th October, celebrating the nation’s much-loved libraries and the central role that libraries play in supporting life-long learning. There will probably be special events taking place at your local library so it’s definitely worth having a look so you don’t miss out. You can keep up to date on Twitter by following @librariesweek and #LibrariesWeek.

What I’m reading…

There are some fabulous picture books being published at the moment covering a wide range of themes. This week I selected three which I think are worthy of close attention and that I would like to recommend. My Favourite New Picture Books for Children include titles that I think may appeal to adult readers too. Together these books cover things that are important to us all; the value of noticing the small things, our love of home, family and heritage and the beauty of our natural world.

This week I have also been reading my latest batch of books to review for TSL, the School Library Association quarterly journal. Among them was Mouse and Mole Clink, Clank, Clunk! by Joyce Dunbar and James Mayhew, the latest in this charming series features three short stories about the special moments in the everyday life of these two friends. Mole’s tendency to worry is highlighted and the stories contain a reassuring message for younger readers. There is warmth and gentle humour in the stories and this is highlighted in the beautiful illustrations which capture and convey the personalities of the characters superbly. A lovely book to read aloud or few newly confident readers to enjoy as a solo read.

News, articles and resources…

The Importance of Reading Choices by Alison Tarrant CEO of the School Library Association – in my own experience one of the most important factors in promoting reading for pleasure is providing a wide range of books and encouraging and enabling choice by the child. This blogpost by Alison Tarrant on the Reading Is Magic Festival website discusses research supporting this and provides ideas, links and suggestions to help facilitate it. A must read!

CLPE announce collaboration with Waterstones Children’s Laureate Joseph Coelho – CLPE are collaborating with Waterstones Children’s Laureate and CLPE Patron Joseph Coelho, to create a host of teaching resources to accompany his ‘Poetry Prompts’ campaign being launched on National Poetry Day. The resources will be available to download on the BookTrust website and free for use in schools, libraries and at home to encourage further learning and exploration of poetic form and literacy.

CLPE: Journey Back to Freedom: A blog from Catherine Johnson – October is Black History Month and in this blogpost for CLPE by one of their new patrons, Catherine Johnson describes the importance of books such as her new one for Barrington Stoke, Journey Back to Freedom all year round and not only for one month.

National Literacy Trust Take 10 Challenge – The Take 10 Challenge encourages everyone to read for 10 minutes every day to improve their wellbeing and support their literacy skills. On Monday 10 October the Trust will be be hosting a series of activities for schools and communities to mark World Mental Health Day. Find out more via the link above.

The Dog Blog: by Roy James for Just Imagine – the latest in this series of blogposts by Roy James explores the place of man’s best friend in children’s literature and is a lovely read. Roy also discusses the role of dogs in therapy and within school settings. Thank you, Roy, I enjoyed reading this.

National Poetry Day The Lost Words Competition – Inspired by 5 years of The Lost Words book by Robert Macfarlane and Jackie Morris we are inviting children to write an acrostic poem about their favourite plant or animal. The Competition is open to children in two age categories:
7 – 9 (years 2 – 4); and 10 – 12 (years 5 – 7). Deadline Friday 4th November.

The Bookbug Picture Book Prize Shortlist – Every year, The Bookbug Picture Book Prize celebrates the best new Scottish picture books, and the winner of the prize is chosen by children across Scotland. You can find out more about the books on this year’s shortlist via the link above.

Longlists for UKLA 2023 Awards Announced – there were a staggering 494 submissions for these awards, the only one judged entirely by teachers. This year there are just over 100 judges covering the four categories and they have until mid-March to read the longlisted books, discuss them with their group leaders, and share them with pupils. The lists are well worth exploring as they provide a taste of the quality of books available for young readers at the moment, both fiction and information.

Picture This: New reading guide is a celebration of illustration – this week Children’s Books Ireland celebrates the launch of its new reading guide celebrating picturebooks and illustration. Picture This features over 230 recommended reads for children and young people aged 0–18, which have been reviewed by experts in children’s literature. Each review is accompanied by a ‘Read also’ recommendation, bringing the total of books included to over 450. The article and the guide, which is free to download, is well worth a look.

The Diverse Book Awards 2022 Shortlists Announced – Created by award-winning author Abiola Bello and award-winning publicist Helen Lewis to highlight the best of the diverse voices published in the UK & Ireland and now in its third year. The shortlists in the three categories, Children’s, YA and Adult, were announced this week and can be viewed via the link.

The power of short reads: quality reading experiences when time is short by Martin Galway – an extra special guest blog by Martin Galway for HFL Education. When time is short, short stories offer up opportunities for rich and diverse reading experiences. Martin shares the power of novellas and also includes a list of stunning recommended reads to enjoy. A valuable read for any lover of children’s books.

In the Reading Corner Podcast with SF Said – SF Said is one of Nikki Gamble’s distinguished guests for this year’s An Audience With… Much anticipated, it is a deserved highlight of 2022. In the meantime, you can hear SF discussing Tyger in the latest episode of In The Reading Corner with Nikki.

The Reader Teacher Monthly Must Reads for September 2022 – Scott Evans’ selection for September includes That’s Nice, Dear by Owen Gent, one of my favourite picture books of the month featured above. Scott has created a poster to download and there are links to reviews of the books too.

Finally, some book reviews that caught my eye this week…

The Little Match Girl Strikes Back by Emma Carroll & Lauren Child – this wonderful pairing of author and illustrator was always going to attract attention and Kate Heap’s great review has tempted me further. “The sense of hope and determination that runs through the story paints a whole new picture of the “Little Match Girl”, taking her from a character of pity to one of strength.”

Agent Asha: Operation Cyber Chop by Sophie Deen Illustrated by Priyanka Sachdev – the second in this series for readers aged 7+ has an interactive element that should appeal to many. In her review as part of this week’s blog tour Jo Cummins says, “There are so many clever elements to this story which encourage readers to dig deeper and really get involved with the themes in hand.”

Britannica’s Word of the Day by Patrick Kelly, Renee Kelly and Sue Macy Illustrated by Josy Bloggs, Emily Cox, James Gibbs and Liz Cox– reviews by Martin Galway are always worth reading and this one for Just Imagine has sold the concept of this book to me. “The endpapers, typography, illustrations, colours and composition combine to make this a feast for the eye as much as the mind.” It sounds like a wonderful addition to primary school libraries.

That’s everything for this week and I hope you have found it helpful. Time permitting I plan to read Tyger by SF Said over the coming days and listen to his discussion with Nikki Gamble too. Happy reading!

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My Favourite New Picture Books for Children – September 2022

That’s Nice, Love by Owen Gent (Book Island)

That’s Nice Love is a beautiful picture book about noticing, sharing and treasuring the magical moments. If I could share just one new picture book with parents I think it would be this one. Its important message for us all is conveyed with kindness and understanding.

A small child and an adult wander into the park. The little boy is keen to explore, to discover and to enjoy his surroundings. The parent meanwhile is looking down at their phone. The child experiences joy and hidden treasures among the trees, his imagination adding to the excitement and surprises. Every so often the adult responds with a distracted, “That’s nice, love.” Once they return home the adult finally listens and the excited child recounts his adventures and, wonderfully, the adult responds.

Comparisons with Not Now, Bernard, the David McKee classic, are inevitable but this, I think, has a kinder more hopeful tone. We are all guilty to some extent of not paying attention, of being distracted by our technological gadgets, of not listening enough, or indeed of looking enough. This thoughtful book reminds us of what we are missing. The illustrations are wonderful, including the clever endpapers which are so much part of the story. I like this book very much and have learned from reading it. A book and a message to hold on to.

Still This Love Goes On by Buffy Sainte-Marie and Julie Flett (Greystone Kids)

Based on the Cree singer-songwriter Buffy Sainte-Marie’s song of the same name this book is a celebration of home, family, love and the traditions of the Indigenous community. The eye-catching illustrations by Julie Flett portray this life well, capturing the scale of the landscape and lives of the individual people. The animals, the birds and the seasons all feature in both the text and the pictures but it is the feeling of home and family that is conveyed most strongly in this lovely book. It highlights the importance of our heritage, our background and where we come from and the joy we experience when we are reunited with those things that matter most to us. This something with which everyone from any background can recognise and empathise with. The cover is beautiful and invites the reader to explore more. As we turn the pages we experience the passage of time and also the writer’s love for her subject.

The lyrical text is perfect to read aloud at the end of the book sheet music for the song itself is included enabling it to be sung too which is a lovely bonus. The thoughtful notes from both the writer and the illustrator add to our understanding and enjoyment of this beautiful book.

Old Oak and Little Acorn by Elena Mannion Illustrated by Erin Brown (Pikku Publishing)

This follow up to last year’s The Happy Hedgerow is another visit to our natural world for young readers, this time looking at the life cycle of the oak tree. Little acorn is growing safe and secure within the care of the old oak tree but when a string wind blows and he is carried away from the safety of the tree to the ground he is fearful of the changes this will bring. As the seasons slowly change the acorn is carried away by a squirrel, buried within the earth and must survive the threats that winter brings. Finally in the spring the little acorn gradually emerges as a young sapling growing in the field not far from the aged and kindly oak from which he fell.

This lovely story is a wonderful way of nurturing an interest in and love for our natural environment. The personification of the acorn provides an appealing hook for a child who will be encouraged to care about the fate of this small seed. His adventure and the happy outcome despite his trepidation will reassure and comfort too. The depiction of the countryside, the flora and fauna found in the rural landscape, in the detailed illustrations is carefully presented in a rich palette subtly changing with the seasons. As our countryside faces steadily increasing threats from different sources this picture book is a great tool to encourage a connection with nature. Old Oak and Little Acorn could be shared equally well in both educational settings and the home. A book with a traditional appeal but of great value to a contemporary audience.

Each of these books were published this month and I should like to thank the publishers and Catherine Ward for providing my review copies.

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Reading Matters – children’s book news

Welcome to this week’s look at what has been happening in the world of children’s books.

What I’m reading…

I mentioned The Ultimate Guide to Growing Dragons by Andy Shepherd illustrated by Sara Ogilvie last week and now having finished reading it I can confirm this new companion guide is just as much fun as the rest of the series. The narrative voice provided by Tomas is instantly engaging, encouraging readers to view the character as a friend and the clever blend of magical story and ‘non-fiction’ in the form of ‘how to look after your dragon’ gives this lovely book an original feel. What I particularly like is how the magic is centred on both a loving family, (I’m fond of the wise Grandad) and strong bonds of friendship; this is a kind book. The illustrations by Sara Ogilvie are integral to the enjoyment and the different formats and typefaces used to differentiate between the varying forms of narrative give the book an appealing look too. A great package for young readers of about 7 upwards. It is well worth exploring Andy Shepherd’s website as she has provided many thoughtful teaching ideas, activities and videos linked to the world of The Boy Who Grew Dragons.

News, articles and resources…

Tom Palmer RESIST Virtual Book Launch – with Mr Dilly – this online event which took place earlier this month is now free for schools to watch. Mr Dilly speaks with multi-award-winning author Tom Palmer in an exciting event perfectly pitched for ages 9+. Find out more about Tom’s new book, Resist, as well as fascinating facts about the Second World War, the Dutch Resistance, Audrey Hepburn and more.

National Poetry Day Thursday 6th October – National Poetry Day is the annual mass celebration on the first Thursday of October that encourages everyone to make, experience and share poetry with family and friends. Each year we come together because voices, words and stories help to bridge understanding in our community. This year’s theme is The Environment. You can find resources, suitable for both primary and secondary age groups plus a curated selection of poems for you to share based on the theme, which will be added to in the lead up to National Poetry Day.

Little Wandle Letters and Sounds: Mission Impossible, Diversify Your Bookshelves – a helpful guest post by Tiny Owl Publishers one the Everybody Read section of the Little Wandle website, all about their excellent picture books and free accompanying resources.

Books for Topics: Q&A: Uju Asika – A World for Me and You – Have you ever heard it said that ‘life would be extremely boring if everyone were the same’? A World for Me and You is an uplifting new picturebook about the diversity of our world. Author Uju Asika visits the Books for Topics blog to discuss her hopes for the book.

Meanwhile Back on Earth: In Conversation with Oliver Jeffers Monday, 24 October 19:30 – Teachers and educators are invited to take part in this virtual conversation, hosted by the Royal Astronomical Society (RAS) in partnership with HarperCollins Children’s Books and CLPE. Artist Oliver Jeffers talks to Planetary Scientist Sheila Kanani about his new picture book “Meanwhile Back on Earth” and how it was inspired by Our Place in Space. Our Place in Space is an epic scale model of our Solar System which launched earlier this year in Northern Ireland, and is currently touring the UK.

Nick Sharratt to celebrate the extraordinary power of pictures in children’s books as BookTrust’s latest Writer-Illustrator in Residence – so many young children and their parents will recognise Nick Sharatt’s vibrant illustrations and this appointment is lovely news. Nick says that his six months as BookTrust’s Writer-Illustrator in Residence “is going to be one long picture party!” News to put smiles on faces.

We’re Going On A Bear Hunt The Film: Live In Concert – On the afternoon of SATURDAY NOVEMBER 5th 1-2pm at Regent Hall on London’s Oxford Street a 40-piece orchestra performs the music for WE’RE GOING ON A BEAR HUNT live alongside the animated film. Book tickets and find out more via the link above.

The Yoto Carnegies – this week CILIP, the libraries and information association, unveiled new branding for the Yoto Carnegie Greenaway Awards, the UK’s longest running and best-loved children’s book awards. Renamed The Yoto Carnegies, the rebrand, with its striking new logo, and strapline – ‘It starts with a spark’ – reflects the awards aim to inspire or ‘spark’ a lifelong passion for reading by connecting more children with the books that will change lives.

The Yoto Carnegies Nominations Now Open – Nominate your favourite books for children and young people to win the 2023 Yoto Carnegie Medals! All CILIP members are welcome to nominate one title per Medal. Review the criteria and submit your nominations for these prestigious awards by Friday 30th Sept.

The Little Match Girl Strikes Back by Emma Carroll and Lauren Child Teaching Resources – Chapter-by-chapter comprehensive questions, cross-curricular activities and writing opportunites. Written by Scott Evans (@MrEPrimary) for primary school years 3-5 linked to this new book by bestselling and much-loved authors Emma Carroll and Lauren Child.

The Royal Society Young People’s Book Prize 2022 – this week the shortlist for this award was announced. The prize celebrates the very best science books for under-14s and aims to encourage young readers to satisfy their curiosity by immersing themselves in the wonderful world of science. It’s a fascinating selection and includes Beetles for Breakfast…by Madeleine Finlay, illustrated by Jisu Choi, a book reviewed on its publication.

Children’s Reading Choices Report – This report from Teresa Cremin and Becky Coles of The Open University looks at data from 1194 children aged 8-11 years who took part in the Attitude to Reading survey provided by Bounce Together and written by the School Library Association. The responses came from 14 state schools across England in 2021 and were spread across the country.

Waterstones Children’s Laureate Joseph Coelho launches Poetry Prompts campaign – The award-winning performance poet, playwright and children’s author Joseph Coelho will launch ‘Poetry Prompts’ in partnership with BookTrust, on National Poetry Day – Thursday 6 October. From National Poetry Day onwards, Coelho will share a weekly ‘Poetry Prompt’ video to inspire the nation, young and old, to write poems and to become poets. Each video will see Coelho exploring a different subject or technique.

The Centre for Literacy in Primary Education Turns 50 – In 2022, the Centre for Literacy in Primary Education (CLPE) is celebrating its 50th Birthday. CLPE is a charity that has been leading thinking and practice in the teaching of literacy in primary schools for 50 years. You can find out more about the various resources/training offered by this charity and read about forthcoming events via the link above.

School Librarian of The Year Honour List 2022 – this year for the first time the honour list is split into two categories, primary and secondary. Please read about the fantastic librarians doing excellent work in their schools via the link above. Huge congratulations to those listed.

Children’s and teens roundup: the best new picture books and novels – A tender portrait of adoption; a zebra on the run; an uplifting poetry anthology; an exceptional YA debut are among the books selected by Imogen Russell Williams in her latest round up for the Guardian. Imogen’s reviews are always an excellent guide to what is worth seeking out among the vast array of titles available at the moment.

Finally, some book reviews that caught my eye this week…

You Need to Chill by Juno Dawson (author), Laura Hughes (illustrator) – I had no idea that Juno Dawson had written a picture book so this review by Tricia Adams for LoveReading4Kids was a welcome surprise. “What a joyful, funny book about identity, acceptance, love and loyalty.”

Marvellous Middle Grade from Summer 2022 – this is an excellent and extremely helpful round up by Kate Heap of recently published books featuring titles with themes of mystery, historical adventure, neurodiverse characters, science fiction, humour and fantasy so there is something here for all tastes. Prepare to add to your shopping lists!

Wren by Lucy Christopher – several people have recommended this new book over the last couple of weeks and this review by Tom Griffiths conveys its appeal. “Wren is an instantly likeable protagonist – a young girl grieving the sudden loss of her mum, desperate to be independent. She shows what we are all capable of – capable of being free from our surroundings and soaring.”

The Raven’s Song by Zana Fraillon and Bren MacDibble – I had not heard of this book, published in October, until I read Veronica Price’s review but it does sound like one to watch out for. A combination of ecological science and mythology the plot may appeal to readers looking for a thoughtful and relevant read. Veronica says, “I highly recommend this book to mature readers of 11+ and would encourage all secondary school librarians to place a copy in their collections where I am certain it will appeal to teenagers who are environmentally aware.”

That’s everything for this week and I hope that there is something included here that will be of use to you. Happy reading!

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Reading Matters – children’s book news

Welcome to this week’s look at what has been happening in the world of children’s books. Real life has rather got in the way of my reading this week so apologies if I have missed something important. My weekend is going to be spent catching up but I hope the links I have selected this week are helpful to you.

What I’m reading…

Family life has been exceptionally busy this week so reading has rather taken a back seat. However The Ultimate Guide to Growing Dragons by Andy Shepherd and Sara Oglivie was published on Thursday and I am very much enjoying meeting Tomas again. This latest instalment in this great series for young readers 7+ is slightly different being a clever blend of narrative fiction and information. It works well and the familiar humour is gentle and kind. Although I’m only half way through I think this is going to be a welcome and popular addition to the series.

As part of the celebration of World Kid Lit Month I was invited to share some translated picture books that I particularly enjoyed. I chose books to read for empathy as it something that I think a good picture book can convey so well. You can found out more about the three picture books I selected here.

News, articles and resources…

When we asked the Queen to tea with Paddington, something magic happened – the most lovely goodbye – amongst all the numerous articles published over the last ten days about the Queen this one by award winning children’s author Frank Cottrell Boyce is rather special.

Michael Rosen: Reading for Pleasure: how and why does it enable children to do better at school? What can we do to foster it? What creative ways of responding and interpreting help in this too? – this is an excellent article by Michael Rosen that you may have missed last weekend covering the many important aspects of reading and how it influences and affects children’s development and understanding. I’ve saved this to refer to in future as it gave me a great deal to think about.

An ONLINE evening with Tom Palmer in conversation with Dr Amy Williams talking about his stunning new book ‘Resist’ – On Wednesday 21 September 2022 from 7-8pm, Barnet Libraries will host this event which includes a Q&A session with a prize for the best question. Age guidance 9yrs+, teenagers & adults.

Bath Children’s Literature Festival – at the time of writing there are still tickets available for some events at this festival taking place from 24th September – 2nd October. The full programme and booking details are available via the link above and the line-up includes, Michael Rosen, Christopher Edge, Kiran Millwood Hargrave, Cerrie Burnell, Patrice Lawrence and Juno Dawson.

Paperbound Magazine Autumn 2022 Issue – this magazine is free to download via the link above and includes writing suggestions, author interviews and book reviews. The magazine has now been operating for two years and is run by volunteers, however if you would like to support PaperBound and the work they do, you can help out by buying a virtual book.

Books for Topics: Children’s Books: 10 You Might Have Missed – With so many new children’s books published each month, often just a handful of key titles claim the spotlight. Alison Leach of Books for Topics and her Review Panel have highlighted some of the brilliant books published in recent months that may have passed you by but deserve not to be missed.

Winner of the Klaus Flugge Prize 2022 – the award ceremony for this prize for the most exciting and promising newcomer to children’s picture book illustration took place on Wednesday. Joseph Namara Hollis has won this year’s prize for his book Pierre’s New Hair (Tate Publishing) about a bear obsessed with looking good but also desperate to show the world his roller-skating flair. Full details of the award, the ceremony and the other lovely books which made the shortlist are available on the official website above.

Just Imagine: An evening with Joseph Coelho – On Thursday, October 6, (National Poetry Day) 7:00 PM – 8:00 PM Otter-Barry Books Ltd & Just Imagine invite you to An Evening with Joseph Coelhoe to celebrate the publication of The Boy Lost in the Maze. Joseph, our new Children’s Laureate will be in conversation with Nikki Gamble. There will be an opportunity for audience questions.

ZARO WEIL Book Launch for Schools with Mr Dilly – National Poetry Day 2022 – Join CLiPPA winning poet Zaro Weil & Mr Dilly for a FREE, fun event on Monday 3rd October 11:00 – 12:00 – the perfect way to celebrate National Poetry Day in primary Schools. When Poems Fall From the Sky, published in association with the Royal Botanic Gardens Kew, is perfect for ages 7+. The event includes an inspirational chat PLUS an interactive classroom Poetry Activity with Zaro and readings from the book.

Nosy Crow to Launch U.S. Company – More than a decade after opening its London office Nosy Crow will expand its presence in the U.S. with the spring 2023 launch of Nosy Crow Inc. The new company will publish the full roster of genres that has been the backbone of Nosy Crow U.K., ranging from books for infants to works for middle-grade readers.

Books for Keeps September 2022 Issue – one of my favourite sources of up to date information about children’s books, this latest issue is crammed full of the regulars such as Beyond the Secret Garden, Windows Into Illustration and this month’s Authorgraph, William Grill plus loads of helpful reviews. A must read!

Literacy Hive: Developing a Culture of Reading for Pleasure 2: Children as Readers – the second in this series of blogs for Literacy Hive by Debbie Thomas lecturer in Reading for Pleasure at the Open University, highlights the importance of developing our knowledge of children’s reading practices. A useful article for both teachers and school librarians.

Nikki Gamble: An audience with Jon Klassen – If you are thinking about subscribing to this year’s An Audience With… seminar series, here’s a treat for you. Jon Klassen joined Nikki last year, and she has posted the video to YouTube. If this whets your appetite you have until 30th September to book for this year’s series.

Henley Literary Festival 2022 Schools Programme – from Monday 3rd October – Friday 7th October this festival has a fantastic line-up of events for pupils aged 4-16, from some of the UK’s most popular children’s authors. There are two ticket options on offer for schools:
Live Streaming: watch the event for FREE as you live stream directly to your classrooms or school hall. This does not include a book. In-Person Ticket: watch the event live from the Marquee, Kenton Theatre or Town Hall in Henley-on-Thames, with a book included with every ticket. Booking is possible via the programme which you may download via the link above.

Finally, some book reviews that caught my eye this week…

Agent Moose: Moose on a Mission by Mo O’Hara illustrated by Jess Bradly – the cover of this book published in July caught my eye and this enthusiastic review by school librarian Nicki Cleveland has sold this story of humour and bravery to me. She says this latest book is part of “The perfect series to begin your graphic novel journey.” This sounds just right for primary school libraries.

Chameleon Dad by Debbie Thomas – shorter novels for children in Years 4 and 5 are much needed and important for a wide range of readers and this book sounds perfect for that audience. When Connie gets a letter from the dad she thought was dead, she sets out to discover why he left her, eight years ago, sitting in an airport cafe with only her pet chameleon for company. Reviewer Jo Tregenza highlights the way in which this book could be used in schools in her helpful review for Just Imagine.

The Last Whale by Chris Vick – a really excellent review on LoveReading4Kids by Joanne Owen for this new title aimed at readers of secondary school age. “Charged by super plotting, the infectious passion of young eco-campaigners across three generations, and a powerful environmental call to action, Chris Vick’s The Last Whale is a rousing, enchanting triumph.

Taking Time: It’s the Journey Not the Destination by Carl Honore; illustrated by Kevin and Kristen Howdesell and Slow Down and Be Here Now by Laura Brand; illustrated by Freya Hartas – wonderful reviews by Ben Harris of two new non-fiction titles published by Magic Cat. Both of these are examples of how information books can be part of a reading for pleasure journey also encouraging young readers to slow down, look, ponder and enjoy.

That’s everything for this week. I plan on finishing The Ultimate Guide to Growing Dragons this weekend and have a tempting stack of picture books which I hope to share over the coming days too. Happy reading!

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Reading Matters – children’s book news

Illustration by Eleanor Tomlinson

Welcome to this week’s look at what has been happening in the world of children’s books. Discussion about literacy, children’s books and libraries made the national media over the last few days and I have included links below. The volume of books being published is hard to keep up with and I rely heavily on reviewers I trust however there are excellent books that no doubt I am missing but I hope those included in my round up appeal.

What I’m reading…

The Barrington Stoke team have been busy and published a flurry of new titles this month. Two books that bring history to life for new readers are Journey BACK to Freedom: The Olaudah Equiano Story by Catherine Johnson with illustrations by Katie Hickey and Everest Reaching the Roof of the World by David Long illustrated by Stefano Tambellini both of which would be excellent for use in educational settings. I also enjoyed a new Little Gem book from this publisher by Lisa Thompson, Sidney Makes a Wish. This is absolutely lovely, a story of friendship and empathy told with a kind understanding and with a subtle message that sometimes what you’re searching for is right under your nose. There are cheerful illustrations by Jess Rose and a happy ending too! The Day My Family Disappeared by Jo Simmons illustrated by Lee Cosgrove is great fun. A “Home Alone” situation in which our hero, Bob, calls on some survival skills learned from TV endurance shows to cope with getting lost in the woods, stalker sheep and nasty geese. Perfect for children who ask for funny books.

Turning back to non-fiction, Neon Squid are a new publisher creating some stylish and well produced information books for children. Out this month is Tales of the Prehistoric World: Adventures From the Land of the Dinosaurs written by Kellie Moore illustrated by Becky Thomas. This is brilliant for dinosaur fans of all ages as the author’s enthusiasm for her subject is infectious and there are great illustrations by Becky Thorns too. I particularly liked the blend of facts with a storytelling approach to the recounting of the discoveries made over the years and the considered approach to the different points of view and theories about the subject. A great and useful books for school libraries and classrooms for both browsing for pleasure and learning.

News, articles and resources…

Book Trust: Books We Love for September – Every month, the Book Trust review dozens of books for children and teenagers. These are their choices for this month sorted by age group and including Queen of the Classroom a great picture book for supporting little ones starting nursery or school and Birdsong a novella that I loved and can wholeheartedly recommend.

Children’s Books Ireland International Conference – this year’s conference ‘All the Way Home’ takes place at Light House Cinema, 24–25 September 2022. Featuring an array of international children’s authors, illustrators and poets, the 2022 conference’s theme, ‘All the Way Home’ asks each of its speakers to reflect on the meaning of home, and how a sense of homecoming and place informs their work. The timetable and full details of tickets etc are available via the link.

One in five children in England do not own any books of their own – an article in the Guardian regarding the recent findings of the National Literacy report. Usually I share articles such as this without personal comment but am staggered that this makes no mention of the loss of our public libraries and the neglect of school libraries nationally. Libraries would do so much to help this problem.

Thank goodness for Cressida Cowell, former Children’s Laureate who subsequently spoke eloquently on TV about the need for school libraries. I hope this link below works for you…

Truss urged to invest in libraries and abolish tax on audiobooks – more words of wisdom about the need for both school and public libraries from Joseph Coelho, our new Children’s Laureate, and Nick Poole, CEO of the Chartered Institute of Library and Information Professionals.

Be part of new research into UK primary and secondary school library provision – following on from the links above the Great School Libraries campaign are repeating this research in to library provision in primary and secondary schools to get a more up-to-date picture. Find out how your school can help via the link above.

Bookmark: Grant to promote a Whole School Reading Culture – As part of their work to help develop whole school reading cultures, Bookmark is offering a limited number of grants to primary schools to help them address their specific literacy needs. There are two types of grants available: Whole School Reading Culture project grant (up to £5,000) and Whole School Reading Culture teacher CPD grant (up to £500). Full details on the website above.

New Updated Authorfy Website – this update has taken creator Mel Taylor-Bessent two years to bring to fruition and is well worth exploring. There are over 10,000 hours of author videos, hundreds of classroom resources & book extracts, a new search function, author letters & more.

World Book Day £1 Books Announced – The £1/€1.50 books are an important part of the World Book Day mission to promote reading for pleasure by offering every child and young person the opportunity to choose and own a book. This list should appeal to a wide range of interests and stages of reading and is a refreshing mix of genre. The £1/€1.50 books will also be available in braille, large print & audio via Guide Dogs, the RNIB and Calibre Audio.

World Kid Lit Month: Illustrated chapter books for emerging readers – this guest blog post by Emily Bright & Sarah Campbell of the Parrot Street Book Club features some appealing translated books for children aged roughly 5 to 8. Organised types may like to put Santa Gets a Second Job on their shopping list!

Storyshaped: A podcast about the power of stories to shape lives and change the world – this is a brand-new children’s literature podcast all about the stories that shape us – and how the stories that formed us go on to shape the stories we create. Hosted by children’s authors Susan Cahill and Sinéad O’Hart. I’ve listened to the recent episode with picture book creator Olivia Hope and found it a relaxing and enjoyable half hour. Previous episodes include a look at classic books by Alan Garner and Catherine Storr. I shall be following this new venture with interest.

The British Library Learning: Step Inside Your Story – Join a host of wonderful authors, including Joseph Coelho the new Children’s Laureate in this new initiative. A celebration inclusivity in children’s books, inviting young writers to make concertina books about themselves. There is free online workshop available for schools. Discover more & enter the prize draw on the official website above.

Everyone Loves A Quiz by Chris Lloyd – the Federation of Children’s Book Groups is gearing up for National Non-Fiction November and are sharing an exciting and unique opportunity for schools. Chris Lloyd’s guest blog tells us about quizzes and our fascination with them and there is also the opportunity to get involved, linked with Britannica magazine, and win some books for your school.

Klaus Flugge Prize Shortlist Videos – the winner of this prestigious award for illustration is announced next week. You may be interested in these short but lovely videos about each of the shortlisted books which provide an insight into their creation.

Developing a Culture of Reading for Pleasure 1: Teachers who Read and Readers who Teach – are you trying to promote Reading for Pleasure in your school? This is the first in a series of blogs from Open University Reading for Pleasure lecturer Debbie Thomas that explore the key elements underpinning an RfP culture, with links to resources to help you get started. An extremely helpful article.

Finally, some book reviews that caught my eye this week…

The Moon of Kyiv by Gianni Rodari Illustrated by Beatrice Alemagna – in recent weeks I have seen pictures of this new book and now having read this review by Jonny Walker for Just Imagine I know I want to see it ‘in the flesh’, it sounds so beautiful. Jonny says, “Rodari’s beautiful words are a reminder that we share just one world. And that we must not ever lose sight of each other’s right to live peaceably within it.

Rainbow Magic: Harper The Confidence Fairy – Daisy Meadows – in my experience this series was beloved by many young children in the school library and helped set numerous readers off on their reading journey. This new title has the added bonus of featuring a fairy with Down Syndrome whose special gift of trust is instrumental in the plot. This is a lovely, thoughtful review by Karen and this book is perfectly timed for Down Syndrome Awareness Month in October.

The Story of Green River by Holly Webb illustrated by Zanna Goldhawk – this review by Jo Cummins includes an interesting interview with Holly Webb. Jo says the book is, “A KS2 animal adventure with a classic feel – interesting characters, vivid descriptions, peril, and heart.” It sounds like it will have a wide appeal!

The Last Storyteller by Donna Barba Higuera – a story combining Mexican folklore and sci-fi certainly sounds a bit different and this enthusiastic review by Tom Griffiths has whetted my appetite for more. He says, “From a teaching point of view, this book is certainly one which will gain more sophisticated conversations in KS3 classrooms but equally, I know Upper Key Stage 2 would enjoy this too.”

That’s everything for this week. I hope something here has caught your eye or will be useful.

Illustration by Chris Riddell
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Barrington Stoke Bringing History to Life for Children

Journey BACK to Freedom: The Olaudah Equiano Story by Catherine Johnson with illustrations by Katie Hickey

Inspired by Equiano’s own autobiography this meticulously researched and balanced narrative non-fiction book will promote thoughtful discussion in the classroom and beyond. Catherine Johnson focuses on Olaudah Equiano’s early life and telling the story from his own perspective provides true insights into the dreadful injustices of the slave trade and the shocking prejudice of the time.

We first meet Equiano in his childhood home of what is now Nigeria in 1745 and Johnson does not shy away from portraying the horror of his capture and subsequent voyage to Barbados. The reader then follows the young boy through his early life and the ten years he spent at sea witnessing his burning determination to one day be free. It is a story of resilience and told in a gripping adventure that will engage readers and also enlighten them.

Catherine Johnson provides a detailed afterword to the story through which we learn of Olaudah Equiano’s later life once he gained his freedom. He was, as the author says ‘a tricky character’ however he was a man instrumental in the first attempts to fight for the abolition of slavery and his story deserves to be more well known. This informative book may well encourage young readers to find out more about the man himself.

The writing is accessible to a wide range of readers being edited to a reading age of 8 and being presented in a dyslexia friendly ‘super readable’ style. Journey Back to Freedom is marketed as suitable for 9+ but some of the content may be upsetting for sensitive readers of this age.

You may be interested in Race to the Frozen North also by Catherine Johnson for Barrington Stoke which tells the story of the inspirational Black explorer, Matthew Henson.

You can read the first chapter of Journey Back to Freedom courtesy of the publishers below:

Everest Reaching the Roof of the World by David Long illustrated by Stefano Tambellini

Award-winning non-fiction author David Long turns his attention to the world’s highest mountain and the dangerous early expeditions to conquer it in this, his fourth title for Barrington Stoke. I thought I knew quite a bit about these famous attempts but have learned a great deal more through reading this enjoyable and enthralling book.

We are first introduced to this majestic peak and its religious significance to local people being known as “Goddess Mother of the World” or the “Peak of Heaven” and its first identification as the highest mountain in the world. The reader then learns about the many dangers early climbers faced when attempting the daunting challenge of reaching its summit. Repeatedly the expeditions failed due to inclement weather, the risks of altitude sickness and avalanche alongside the dangers of the climb itself. The descriptions of the various expeditions and of the men involved, notably Colonel John Hunt, Sherpa Tenzing Norgay and Edmund Hillary bring the events to life and the scale of the organisation required was daunting.

David Long’s writing style, familiar now from his earlier books for this publisher, is engaging and conversational in tone but crammed full of interesting detail. Stefano Tambellini’s clear illustrations, maps and diagrams add to the reader’s understanding and this book is an appealing package. Barrington Stoke have also produced some helpful writing prompts linked to the book that can be downloaded here.

If this book appeals you may also be interested in this duo’s other books for Barrington Stoke too: Survival In Space: The Apollo 13 Mission, Tragedy at Sea: The Sinking of The Titanic, and Tutankhamen’s Treasure.

You can read the first chapter of Everest Reaching the Roof of the World below:

I should like to thank Barrington Stoke for providing my review copies and both books were published on 1st September.

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Reading Matters – children’s book news

Welcome to the first Reading Matters newsletter of the new academic year and I hope that everyone had a lovely summer. There are lots of events in the coming weeks that may be of interest to children’s book lovers of all ages and I have included links to many of these below. Inevitably a lot has happened in the world of children’s literature since mid July so I can’t include it all however I do hope that this round up will provide a taste of how much is being created and shared at the moment.

What I’m reading…

Well, I’ve not managed to read quite as much as I had hoped to over the last few weeks but I wanted to share just some of the books that I have managed to write reviews for. You can read about some of the new children’s fiction published over the summer that I enjoyed, there’s something for a variety of tastes included. Three lovely picture books for budding conservationists also caught my eye.

Birdsong, Katya Balen’s novella for Barrington Stoke illustrated by Richard Johnson is beautifully written and one of those books that I struggle to review eloquently but would urge others to read. Its portrayal of the healing power of nature and music is moving and rather special. The Ape Star is a book I reviewed for Just Imagine and is one I probably would not have selected otherwise but I’m really glad I read it as it’s original, amusing and full of love and wisdom. A delightful read that being a translated work would be good for World Kid Lit Month too. No doubt you have already read lots of good things about Grow, Tree, Grow by Dom Conlon and Anastasia Izlesou but I would like to add my voice to the recommendations as it’s a such beautiful book.

I also finally managed to read Where the Crawdads Sing just before I went to see the film and enjoyed both, the book slightly more than the film which is inevitable I suppose! A visit to Jane Austen’s house in Chawton and her brother’s home, Chawton House rounded the summer off perfectly. Now I’ve just got to find the time to read more of her work.

Jane Austen’s house Chawton – photo A Thompson

News, articles and resources…

CILIP YLG National Conference 2022 – Reading the Planet: Libraries in a Changing Climate – it’s not too late to book for this annual conference taking place 16th – 18th September in Sheffield. Following COP26, the conference theme could not be more topical. Young people’s activism around the environment, climate change and more generally on societal change, gives us all hope for the future. The programme is excellent and it is possible to book for the Saturday or Sunday only as a day delegate this year too. Full details available via the link.

CILIP YLG National Conference 2022 – Reading the Planet Virtual – in addition to the in-person conference above, YLG are also offering a virtual conference September 12th – 14th at the cost of £50 +VAT for members £65 +VAT for non-members which is viewable for 12 weeks. Delegates attending the conference in Sheffield have the virtual conference included in their ticket price. The virtual event line-up is also excellent and this may suit those who are unable to travel to Sheffield or prefer the cheaper option.

Nikki Gamble: An Audience with… online event series – 9 superb authors, including, SF Said, Shaun Tan and Beverley Naidoo, 9 outstanding books plus an online book club co-chaired by Nikki and Ben Harris is an opportunity not to be missed. Tickets are now available to book for the whole series of events and booking is open until 30th September. Book packs will be sent out in October before the first session. Single event tickets will be released on the 1st of October, subject to availability. Full details, timing, costs etc. are all available via the link above.

‘Audience With’ Series Authors and Illustrators

Getting the school library ready for the new year – Alison Tarrant, CEO of the School Library Association, knows exactly what to prioritise when planning for the new school year. Here are her top tips, shared with BookTrust, for creating a library that new pupils will love.

CLPE How To Be a Lion by Ed Vere teaching ideas – The CLPE team has put together teaching sequences for the brilliant How to be a Lion by Ed Vere for schools to use as part of back to school planning in September. CLPE have chosen this book for a whole school sequence as it has the themes of friendship, empathy, individuality, standing up for what is right and using words for good at its heart. You can download the free units and access video resources from Ed on the CLPE website.

Children’s and teens roundup – the best new picture books and novels – the latest selection from Imogen Russell Williams includes bad manners in the jungle; a magical inner-city tree; galactic danger; a conservationist call to arms; plus the best new YA novels.

The Reader Teacher: August Monthly Must Reading – Scott Evans’ selection for August includes the excellent Resist by Tom Palmer. Visit the website via the link to read reviews and download the free poster.

World Kid Lit Month – September sees the annual celebration of world literature for children and young adults. There are numerous resources, ideas, features and book lists available on the website linked above and this month would be the ideal time for children and schools to share books and stories from countries other than their own. Look out on social media for more updates throughout the month. The 2022 list: children’s and YA books in translation would be an excellent place to start.

The Reading is Magical Festival 2022 – this online festival is available, for free, to schools and families up and down the country and internationally, so that anyone can experience the magic of books and reading. The full programme and details of how to register are available above. There are many writers, illustrators and poets taking part from 26th-30th September 2022.

Books That Help: Clare Helen Welsh – author and former teacher Clare Helen Welsh launched this new initiative last month and this, I think, will be useful for both schools and families. She has collated lists of picture books that may help children, and probably older children and adults too, through situations that may challenge or worry them. Categories include illness, grief, moving house, dementia, physical disability and the lists will be added to in the future.

Encouraging Children to Read – teacher and blogger Tom Slattery celebrated his 100th blogpost by writing this helpful post full of practical ideas, advice and tips. Key to his success is a knowledge of children’s literature, encouraging book chat and personal recommendation. This would be of great help for new teachers and interesting for parents too. Please don’t forget to ask your school librarian for help too!

The Reader Teacher: Books I’m Most Excited About for September – it’s difficult to keep up with all the new children’s books being published at the moment but Scott Evans has come to the rescue with this video of his choice of September’s highlights.

Tom Palmer’s Resist Schools Virtual Launch – on 16th September at 11am Mr Dilly meets multi-award-winning author Tom Palmer in an exciting event perfectly pitched for ages 9+. Find out more about Tom’s new book, Resist, as well as fascinating facts about the Second World War, the Dutch Resistance, Audrey Hepburn and more. Resist is one of my favourite children’s books of the year so far and you can read my review here. Resist has also been chosen as the Primary Book Club read for September on Twitter and there are stacks of excellent resources linked to the book on Tom’s website.

Petr Horacek talks about The Perfect Present – if like me you were not able to attend this event hosted by Nikki Gamble on Tuesday evening now is your opportunity to catch up with what we missed. Petr talks about his creative process and ideas behind this glorious picturebook published by Otter-Barry Books.

Love My Books September Newsletter – Have a super start to a new school year with this newsletter featuring Love My Books’ new book in focus, plus new books listed with linked activity pages, Mini Grey’s The Greatest Show on Earth is highlighted and there is also a feature remembering Raymond Briggs. Lots of useful ideas for children from Early Years to Upper Primary.

Finally, some book reviews that caught my eye this week…

Together with You by Patricia Toht Illustrated by Jarvis – I like the sound of this new picture book reviewed by Kelly Ashley for Just Imagine. Containing themes of family and memories, Kelly describes this as, “a memoir of love and devotion told through the eyes of a child, Together with You is an elegantly crafted book that is not to be missed.”

Key Player by Kelly Wang – the fourth book in the Front Desk series is attracting a great deal of attention among children’s book fans at the moment and this review by Rachel on the Get Kids into Books blog provides a helpful insight into its appeal. “Key Player is an inspiring story which shows that, despite bumps in the road, ambition and resilience are essential to achieving your goals. There are important messages too about standing up against exploitation and there’s excellent examination of the double standards applied to men and women.”

Dragon Skin by Karen Foxlee – this is a thoughtful review by Nick Campbell of a book I had not heard of but am now tempted to read. Nick makes some interesting points regarding links to classic children’s books and also to reviewing in general, particularly on social media.

War of the Wind by Victoria Williamson – this is a YA title that is new to me but Veronica Price’s review has whetted my appetite to find out more now. Veronica says, “I highly recommend this novel for all secondary school librarians, both for it’s entertainment value as a gripping thriller and for the empathy-inducing portrayal of children who are often overlooked or dismissed.

Quite a lot to get through this week but I hope it will be helpful to you over the coming days. Good luck to everyone returning to school at the moment and happy reading.

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New Picture Books for Budding Conservationists

Picture books can be an excellent way of teaching young children about our world, how to look after it and use its resources wisely. I have selected three recent publications that would be perfect for use in Early Years settings and for Infant classrooms.

A Seed Grows by Antoinette Portis

Sunflowers have great appeal to young children, their cheerful appearance and speedy growth are ideal for demonstrating how the life cycle of plants occurs. A Seed Grows captures and conveys this appeal perfectly. In simple text and bold illustrations we follow the tiny seed from the moment it falls to the ground, grows steadily taller, depicted in a wonderful fold-out spread, and then finally drops its own seeds for the hungry birds to feed on and distribute.

This is an excellent example of narrative non-fiction for the early years and infant audience. The story alone teaches in an accessible manner for the youngest child and the comprehensive information provided at the end of the book adds added value for slightly older readers. There are facts, and helpful illustrations, suggested linked activities and a quiz to check on understanding. A great book for use in educational settings with teaching resources available on the publisher’s website. A Seed Grows was published in June by Scallywag Press. You may also be interested in Hey Water and A New Green Day by the same author.

Granny Pip Grows Fruit by Deborah Chancellor and Julia Groves

This is the final book in the series, Follow My Food, about where our food comes from and contains themes of sustainability conveyed in an easy to understand manner for our youngest readers. Granny Pip busy in her orchard encourages children to understand how fruit grows and how much work is involved in producing our food that appears in our shops. The little girl helping Granny learns about pruning, fertilising, watering and harvesting and although on a small scale in a garden this will enlighten readers. Clear illustrations and spare text ensure that this is accessible to young children and could be shared aloud too. In a similar approach to A Seed Grows there is a helpful information section at the end of the book highlighting the needs of the growing fruit and the importance of eating food that is grown closer to home. There are resources available on the publisher’s website linked to the book that would be helpful to teachers. Granny Pip Grows Fruit is published by Scallywag Press on 1st September.

Herman Needs a Home by Lucy Noguera illustrated by Emma Latham

Herman Needs a Home was inspired by a study of the effects of plastic pollution on hermit crabs and tells the story of a young hermit crab who, when he grows too big for his shell, goes in search of a new one that will feel just right. Accompanied by his sister, Hiro, Herman discovers that finding the perfect home proves difficult especially when he comes across a pile of rubbish discarded on the sand. With cheerful illustrations and appealing characters this is both an enjoyable story to share and an exploration of the challenges our marine wildlife face. Lucy Noguera is a former teacher and knows how to present information and thoughtful comment in an attractive manner to young readers. There are humorous moments and dramatic incidents at just the right level for the intended audience. The Did You Know? page at the end of the book provides key facts and also offers suggestions of how we can help to improve the situation. Herman Needs a Home was published by Brilliant Monster Books in June and would be great for Reception and Infant classes.

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Children’s Books: New Fiction Summer 2022

Numerous children’s books have been published over the summer and I have only been able to read a few of them so apologies to those not included in this summer fiction round-up. However those featured here should appeal to a range of tastes and levels of reading stamina. Adventures incorporating magic and football, evil and bravery, racism and conservation illustrate the array of themes covered in children’s books at present.

The Whale Watchers by Dougie Poynter illustrated by Amberin Huq

The Whale Watchers combines summer holiday adventure and environmental concerns in an exciting and thoughtful story. As Finn departs reluctantly with his marine biologist mum and younger brother Jesse for six weeks in Scotland all he can think of is the sun drenched fun his friends are enjoying on their exotic holidays. His mood is as grey as the weather. After an inauspicious start the two boys develop a friendship with local girl Skye and go to her favourite look out post to try and watch the whales off the coast. It is then that Finn finds himself caught up adventure to save one of these important creatures.

The book was prompted by a campaign by Brita to raise funds for the Whale and Dolphin Conservation after research showed primary school kids were experiencing a high level of anxiety about the planet. The storyline whilst teaching children about the importance of conservation will also reassure them that every individual action will help and encourage them to take small steps towards supporting the larger campaigns.

The story is fast paced and presented in clear typeface to support the less confident reader and interspersed with charming illustrations. The information section providing the science behind the story at the end of the book is an added bonus and extremely comprehensive including biographical details of people involved in dolphin and whale protection, the human impact on the planet, facts about whales, tips on how to be eco-friendly and a glossary. Suitable for 7+ and published by Owlet Press in July.

Spellstoppers by Cat Gray

This debut features a young boy who is a bit different. Every time Max touches something electrical it explodes and this is making life steadily more difficult for both Max and his mum. Reluctantly, Max’s mum sends him off to stay with his grandad, whom he has never met, to spend the summer with him in the seaside village in which he lives. Once there life takes a dramatic turn for young Max as he discovers the secret behind what he considers his curse and embarks on a magical and dangerous adventure with his new friend, Kit.

The opening pages ground this magical fantasy in reality and Max has an appeal that ensures readers care about him as he discovers the truth about himself and his family of Spellstoppers. His rare ability to stop magic spells that have gone wrong, inherited from his grandad, results in Max having to face the cruel Keeper of the magical castle close to the village where he is now staying. Malevolent owls, man-eating goldfish and sinister shadow people are just some of the dangers Max must learn to overcome as he battles to save his grandad and the village.

The development of Max’s character as the story unfolds is thoughtfully executed and the way in which he conquers his fears and problems offers encouragement to young readers which may benefit them in slightly less challenging situations than poor Max faces! Kit too is a sensible girl and their friendship is a balanced and believable one. The story contain elements popular in children’s books over the years presented in a fresh and original premise. As the first in a new series I can see this having a wide appeal and the next book is due out in 2023. Spellstoppers was published by Usborne in July.

Game Changer: A Rocky Rovers Novel by Tom Palmer illustrated by Anna Morozova

If you want to build on the excitement and enthusiasm generated by the Lionesses’ brilliant Euros win this summer then Game Changer is the perfect book for you. The latest in the Roy of the Rovers series features his sister Rocky who plays for the newly formed Melchester Women’s team who are embarking in their first full season of professional football. Packed with exciting football action and behind the scenes tension this will definitely appeal to football fans. Tom Palmer uses his own football knowledge and love of the game to ensure that the importance of various fixtures and results is conveyed heightening the excitement.

However Tom Palmer also tackles important issues such as mental health and grief plus the problem of racism providing an extra dimension to the story. These subjects are handled with a sensitive yet practical and encouraging manner stressing the importance of asking for help and standing up for what you believe is right. These are valuable life lessons for young readers and are deftly incorporated in the plot without feeling didactic or preaching in tone. The friendships and family relationships are realistically portrayed and the characters sympathetic.

This is a must read for football fans and if you are a fan of Tom Palmer’s historical fiction and have not tried this series, maybe not considering yourself a lover of football fiction, I suggest you give this a try. He may convert you to the beautiful game! Game Changer was published in June by Rebellion Press.

Hattie and the Magic Watch by E. H. Hansen

Hattie and the Magic Watch is the first in a new trilogy, The Kingdom of Amber, set in the magical world of Ambrithia. Hattie, a headstrong and impulsive eleven year old, is still grieving the loss of her grandmother when she goes on a school trip to visit some famous caves. Whilst there she loses the special gold pocket watch her grandma gave her and her attempts to retrieve it result in her being plunged into another world full of magic and mystery Hattie embarks on an epic quest to discover the truth about her past and the importance of her grandma’s gift.

This fantasy adventure for the upper age middle grade readership incorporates conflict, secrets, questions of loyalty and trust together with magic, evil villains and wise guides. The idea of learning how to talk to animals and birds, to fly on the backs of magical creatures into mountains and discover secret kingdoms will appeal to lovers of classic fantasy and the lead character is one young readers will be rooting for throughout the excitement. Hattie has always felt different from her friends and as she gradually discovers more about her parents she grows in confidence and determination. The plot ensures that the reader is not sure who to trust and this adds to the tension as we navigate the twists and turns as the cast of characters reveal clues, the background to Hattie’s family and the cause of the distrust between the warring factions involved. Hattie will return in the second adventure, A Cure for a King. Hattie and the Magic Watch was published on 22nd August by bookmedia v/Elisabeth Houe Hansen

I should like to thank the publishers for providing my review copies.

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Reading Matters – children’s book news

Welcome to this week’s look at what has been happening in the world of children’s books. As many schools are now busy with end of term events with little time for children’s book news or may have already broken up this will be the last Reading Matters of this school year. Thank you to everyone who has commented, pointed me in the direction of useful items or said hello as the best part of this weekly round up for me is the book chat it prompts.

In case it’s of help to families, this week I have included a section on summer reading with a focus on book related activities, reading challenges and suggested titles which may help to encourage children to read for pleasure over the holiday.

What I’m reading…

The Chronicles of Narnia were among my favourite books as a child, particularly The Lion, The Witch and the Wardrobe which I read several times. Thanks to the Narniathon organised by Chris Lovegrove over the last few months I have revisited both Narnia and my childhood memories. It has taught me a great deal about how we read, the experience we bring to a story and how that affects our understanding and enjoyment and, most importantly, the emotional difference between reading as an adult and as a child. As the Narniathon nears its end I’m reading From Spare Oom to War Drobe in which Katherine Langrish does an impressive job of discussing the series through the lens of her nine year old self and now as an adult with a critical literary eye. I’m enjoying this immensely and would highly recommend it.

A couple of picture books have made me smile this week. The Roar by Eoin McLaughlin and Polly Dunbar (Faber 7th July) is the latest in the series about friends Hedgehog and Tortoise. Poor Tortoise has a case of the grumps as life just doesn’t seem to be going well for him and when Hedgehog tries to help Tortoise’s irritation escalates to full blown anger. Both text and illustrations capture the difficulties we may experience in expressing ourselves and this would be a helpful book for encouraging young children to understand their emotions and manage them more effectively. Family and Me! by Michaela Dias-Hayes (Owlet Press 14th July) is brimful of happiness and is a wonderful celebration of a little girl, her family and her heritage. Each page shows how features, talents, skills and attitudes are passed down through the generations and conveys love and acceptance in abundance.

News, articles and resources…

Just Imagine Reading Gladiators Now Subscription Free – the award-winning reading Gladiators book club is now subscription free for primary schools across the globe. Well organised types may like to join up now for access to resources for 108 books selected for years 2 – 6. Alternatively bookmark this link to refer back to for the next academic year. The link above takes you to an introductory video providing full details.

CLiPPA 2022 Live from Southbank Centre – if you were unable to get to the CLiPPA award ceremony last week you can join in all the excitement with the poets, the judges and the participating schools via the CLPE YouTube channel linked above. This might be fun to share in schools during the last days of term.

Andrea Reece: The CLiPPA, Proving Poetry is a Must For Every Child – this great article by Andrea conveys the positive and joyful effects of poetry on children through the CLiPPA shadowing scheme and the events linked to the award which have taken place this year.

Book Trust: New children’s books we love – the July selection from the Book Trust team range from Cluck, Cluck, Duck from Mama Makes Books, a jolly board book rated highly by my friend’s baby granddaughter to Needle by Patrice Lawrence, a story for teens from Barrington Stoke which I found a compelling and unforgettable read..

Literacy Hive: The Literacy Year Calendar of Events – plan your literacy year with this searchable database of events, festivals, awards and awareness days.

YLG Conference Bookings Open – It’s time to book your tickets to the 2022 CILIP Youth Libraries Group Conference. 16-18 SEP 2022 YLG is coming to Sheffield for Reading the Planet: Libraries in a Changing Climate. Alongside the in person conference YLG be offering a virtual programme for those who cannot travel or who cannot afford the full conference. Those who sign up for the live conference will be able to access the virtual sessions for free. Full details and a programme of events to download are available via the link.

Kerry Hudson: School librarians saved me – Scotland can’t afford to lose them – excellent article by author Kerry Hudson on the many varied and vital roles of the school librarian both educational and pastoral. This article was prompted by the North Lanarkshire plans to make their secondary school librarians redundant. As Kerry says, “But, the people they are making redundant don’t just order and organise books. They have a whole other role. They are trusted and represent safety. Safety for kids who are struggling.”

Branford Boase Award Winner Announcement – on Thursday 14 July at an award ceremony at CLPE it was announced that Maisie Chan is the winner of the 2022 Branford Boase Award for the year’s outstanding debut novel for children for her comic, family story Danny Chung Does Not Do Maths, about an 11-year-old whose life is turned upside down by his growing friendship with his grandmother, newly arrived from China. The award is shared with Chan’s editor, Georgia Murray, of Piccadilly Press. You may like to read the interviews with Maisie Chan and Georgia Murray and the other shortlisted authors and editors here.

An evening with Dom Conlon and Anastasia Izlesou – this was a relaxing, thoughtful and fascinating way to spend an hour or so on Thursday evening as we joined together online to celebrate the launch of Grow, Tree, Grow. Nikki Gamble has now made this available to all via the link above and it is well worth watching.

Book Blast with Nikki Gamble Summer Dates – these excellent sessions provide a sneak preview of the best of the new children’s books being published each month. Book Blast July/August will be streaming on 29th July at 7.00. And Book Blast August/September will live stream on 31st August. Links are posted to social channels a week before the event so do look out for them over the summer holidays. The link above will take you to Nikki’s previous Book Blast videos and if you have been too busy to watch these over the school year you will probably find these interesting and helpful too.

Summer Reading Ideas

2022 ‘Gadgeteers’ Summer Reading Challenge Book Collection – This year’s Summer Reading Challenge book collection features 67 inspiring titles for different reading levels encompassing picture books, early readers and middle grade titles, with fiction, non-fiction, poetry, and graphic novels included. The books all engage with the key Gadgeteers themes of everyday science, invention and creation and fun with friends. You can explore the lists via the link above.

Summer Reading Challenge x StoryTrails – StoryTrails is a unique, immersive storytelling experience. It aims to allow local people to experience their town in a completely new way through immersive technology, including augmented and virtual reality. People will be able to use this new technology to travel back in time, experiencing untold histories from their local community. This pack brings together StoryTrails and the Summer Reading Challenge, providing activities to help children and young people explore the themes of innovation, technology and immersive storytelling. Full details free to download via the link.

Books For Topics Summer Reading Bingo – A reading bingo challenge to keep children motivated to read over the summer holidays. The focus is on reading for pleasure experiences rather than specific texts, with activities like make a den and read inside, read in the dark using a torch and read to a pet or a soft toy. Children can choose what they read for the challenges, although Alison Leach at Books for Topics has included some Summer 2022 recommended reads for those looking for new ideas.

Books for Topics Summer 2022 Recommended Reads – These recommended reads linked above will be helpful if parents or children are asking for suggestions of specific titles. They are divided into age categories.

The Week Junior Summer of Reading Challenge – Participants are invited to read, rate and review three books over the summer. A fantastic booklist is supplied for inspiration with 50 great titles chosen in partnership with The Book Trust. Reviews must be submitted via their entry form before the closing deadline at midnight on Friday 26 August. One lucky winner will receive a book bundle worth £250 plus a Bookily card from National Book Tokens, loaded with £10 per month for 6 months to spend in their favourite bookshops and online. Three runners up will also each win a Bookily card loaded with £10 per month for 6 months.

Summer of Reading Resources – last year the Reading Agency out together this collection of resources and they are just as useful this year. There are read-alongs, games, quizzes, book clubs and lots more activities to keep families occupied over the summer holidays.


15 Excellent Summer Reading Ideas for Young Readers
– former school librarian of the year, Lucas Maxwell has written an excellent article for Book Riot giving suggestions on how to encourage reading over the summer holiday. The majority focus on making reading fun and include competitions and ‘Surprise Reads’.

Brilliant Children’s Books to Read this Summer – the LoveReading4Kids team has been gathering together a fantastic selection of books. These include beach reads, back garden reads and brilliant bedtime reads. Lots of fascinating non-fiction titles to keep your young ones interested…and children always love an activity book…perfect to keep them occupied on a long journey. Definitely worth a browse!

Finally, some book reviews that caught my eye this week…

Saving the World: Our Story Starts in Africa by Patrice Lawrence; and Scientists are Saving the World by Saskia Gwinn and Ana Albero – reviews by Ben Harris are always worth reading and this week he shared two excellent new books published by Magic Cat. When Ben says, “I can’t praise these two books more highly…” you know they are worth investigating.

Orla and the Wild Hunt by Anna Hoghton -The second children’s novel by Anna Hoghton, author of The Mask of Aribella follows two siblings in a quest to overcome their grief and find their missing gran. In her review Kate Heap says, “Dark folklore combines with the unbreakable spirit of children to create a story packed full of peril, sacrifice, loyalty, friendship and love.

Well, that’s it for the time being. Thank you for reading and a special thank you to those who get in touch to comment or share online. I hope that everyone has a happy and relaxing summer with family and friends.

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