New Books for Children from Barrington Stoke

The Little Lost Kitten by Holly Webb illustrated by Abigail Hookham

Holly Webb has now been writing stories for children for twenty years and she knows that animals have an appeal for many young readers. Her new book in the Little Gem series for Barrington Stoke is just right for newly independent readers of 5+. This gently told story of a little girl and a stray kitten will most certainly appeal to little cat lovers.

Lucy and her dad are both missing their old cat Patch who had been a much loved member of their little family for many years. When Lucy spots a small grey kitten walking on the roadside through the mist she wonders at first if she has imagined it. Then the kitten appears in their back garden and Lucy tenderly cares for it but doesn’t tell her dad as she is worried about upsetting him. Over the coming days Lucy grows to love the little cat and is broken hearted when it suddenly disappears. Should she tell her father or should she try to find her new pet by herself? All is resolved with a happy ending that this age group need to read.

This is a lovely little package for new readers, its chunky size is appealing and the gentle illustrations by Abigail Hookham fit the tender story perfectly plus there is a Spot the Difference puzzle at the front of the book for added enjoyment. The death of the family’s old pet is dealt with sensitively as is the relationship between the father and the young child.

Next to Alice by Anne Fine illustrated by Gareth Conway

Children’s books featuring a school setting are undoubtedly popular with young readers but they can also be helpful guides to coping with the everyday issues that children encounter. Multi award winning author and former Children’s Laureate Anne Fine has a wealth of experience and is able to incorporate her wisdom in the books she writes. Next to Alice besides being an entertaining tale conveys an important message that applies to us all, namely that we should not be too quick to pre-judge others.

When Ben is asked to move desks and sit next to Alice in his class he is initially more than a little reluctant. He thinks that Alice is ‘scary’. She criticises his poor handwriting, his speedy eating and his rushed drawing. Poor Ben is not happy. However as he starts to takes Alice’s advice he gradually realises that she may be right. Under Alice’s beady eye and with her encouragement Ben improves in all areas and even starts to enjoy her company. Perhaps a new friend has been made?

Anne Fine successfully treads the fine line between showing her readers how, with a little effort, life can be rewarding without preaching or becoming didactic in tone. There is humour in the writing and she has captured the dynamics found in the classroom well. The illustrations contain some well observed depictions of school life too. A entertaining story for readers aged 7+

The Broken Dragon by Karen McCombie illustrated by Anneli Bray

Karen McCombie is another bestselling author who has a knack for incorporating life lessons in her thoughtful stories. Also set in a school The Broken Dragon takes its inspiration from the ancient art of ‘kintsugi’, the Japanese tradition of restoring broken pottery with gold.

Tyra now lives with her Nan and is starting at a new school a prospect that worries her as she wonders whether or not she will fit in and be able to make new friends. Tyra is full of life and can be a little bouncy and loud at times, she loves wearing bright colours and has a passion for dragons of all types. She collects dragon treasures from jewellery to books, from puzzles to toys and all of them are precious to her. When Nan gives her beautiful china snow dragon Tyra decides to take it to school to show her classmates in the hope that they will be interested in it and consequently in her. But disaster strikes and the beautiful dragon is smashed. Poor Tyra needs to mend her beloved dragon and she still needs new friends too. This lovely story is not only about repairing things but also repairing people too and that beauty does not always rely on perfection. Another title suitable for readers aged 7+.

I should like to thank the publishers, Barrington Stoke and Kirstin Lamb for my review copies. All three books are published on 2nd February.

Posted in Book Review | Tagged , , , , , | Leave a comment

Reading Matters – children’s book news

Welcome to this week’s round up of what’s been happening in the world of children’s books. Awards, podcasts, poetry, events, reading for pleasure and lots more to enjoy.

What I’m reading…

Holocaust Memorial Day was commemorated yesterday, 27th January, and this week I completed my reading of Fritz and Kurt by Jeremy Dronfield illustrated by David Ziggy Greene published by Puffin this month. The true story of the Kleinmann family was first told in the The Boy Who Followed His Father into Auschwitz and Jeremy Dronfield has now rewritten this remarkable and deeply moving story for children. Despite the shocking subject matter this book is a tribute to the extraordinary power of human courage and resilience and this important story is, ultimately, uplifting. I have no doubt this book will be included on school reading lists in the future and deservedly so.

News, articles and resources…

National Storytelling Week Activities – To celebrate storytelling week, taking place from 30 January to 5 February, the National Literacy Trust have created a programme of events and resources. These include the chance to join us for a live storytelling event with professional storyteller and author Wendy Shearer on 30 January, suitable for KS1 and KS2. In addition, there are storytelling activities for learners across a wide age range covering Early years, KS1, KS2 and KS3.

Just Imagine: Poetry by Heart – Dr Julie Blake the co-founder and Director of Poetry by Heart has written a superb blog for Just Imagine about her organisation. Poetry by Heart provides excellent resources for teaching poetry and runs a national spoken poetry competition for schools. I mentioned the competition in Reading Matters last term but if you haven’t been involved with the competition, there is still time to register before the deadline of the 31st March.

Book Trust: Dr Maggie Aderin-Pocock talk and Q&A – space scientist Maggie Aderin-Pocock is back with her second book, Am I Made of Stardust? and in this free online event is here to answer all your questions about the wonders of the universe for curious children (and teachers!). Friday, 17th March 10am-10:45am Suitable for: Year groups 5, 6 and 7. More information and registration via the link above.

After 30+ years, ‘The Stinky Cheese Man’ is aging well – can the Stinky Cheese Man and Other Fairly Stupid Takes really be more than thirty years old? Well, yes it is and this article by Samantha Balaban discusses the ideas behind the creation of the book and the successful collaboration between Jon Scieszka and Lane Smith. A fascinating read for picture book lovers.

Scottish Book Trust: 8 picture books we can’t wait to read in 2023! – A new year means lots of brand new books to share with your little ones. The Scottish Book Trust team have pulled together a list of some to look out for in your local libraries and bookshops this year.

The Yoto Carnegies Announce Media Partnership with Award-Winning Children’s Newspaper First News – it was announced this week that the award-winning children’s news provider First News is the official media partner of these annual awards for children’s and young people’s literature and illustration for 2023. First News will work with the Yoto Carnegies team throughout the Awards cycle to create bespoke content for young readers to engage with the authors, illustrators, and books celebrated by the Awards.

Promoting the Benefits of Reading for Pleasure to New Teachers – article by school librarian Lucas Maxwell for Bookriot about the importance of collaboration between librarians and teachers contains helpful advice for librarians. “My role as a librarian is to try to get teachers involved in the library as something they want to do, not something they have to do.”

Save the children’s by Molly Ker Hawn – article in The Bookseller by Molly Ker Hawn, the managing director of the Bent Agency’s UK office discussing the current state of children’s publishing and the role of publishers and media. “The canon of British children’s literature is one of this country’s great cultural achievements—and exports—but it’s increasingly a losing proposition to try to make a living writing it.”

The Branford Boase Award Longlist Announced – The longlist for the 2023 Branford Boase Award was announced on Wednesday 25 January 2023). Set up in memory of award-winning author Henrietta Branford and her editor Wendy Boase, one of the founders of Walker Books, the Branford Boase Award is given annually to the author of the year’s outstanding debut novel for children. Uniquely, the award also honours the editor of the winning title and highlights the importance of the editor in nurturing new talent. The longlist of 21 features fantasy novels, accomplished coming-of-age YA novels; a Georgian-era crime adventure; and a novel longlisted for the new Adrien Prize for novels giving a positive portrayal of a character with a disability. This list would be a perfect way of keeping up with new quality fiction for children and young people.

Backlisted Special: The Books of our Childhood with Frank Cottrell Boyce– the first Backlisted special of 2023 features the award-winning novelist and screenwriter Frank Cottrell-Boyce. This podcast is a one hour treat of nostalgia and wisdom about children’s books including mention of Ursula Le Guin, Joan Aiken, Just William and the joy to be found in I Spy books. I found this interesting and entertaining and hope you do too.

Top 50 books every child should read – the National Literacy Trust is Good Housekeeping magazine’s new charity partner for 2023 and this week this partnership published a list of 50 recommended books for children in different age groups from Under 5s to 14-16 year olds.

Reading Rocks Virtual Author Events – Reading Rocks have launched a virtual events subscription platform which gives your school access to some of the latest and greatest authors and illustrators who are creating exciting and diverse books for primary and early years readers. Subscribers receive 6 annual credits to spend on virtual author events for pupils aged 3 to 11. Each event is one credit. The system is described as easy to use and with reduced admin for school compared to arranging your own events. This is definitely worth a look!

The Week Junior Book Awards – a new award for children’s books is excellent news, particularly after the loss of the Blue Peter Award last year. In partnership with The Bookseller, The Week Junior Book Awards will honour the authors, illustrators and publishers who inspire children to read for pleasure. The emphasis is on original ideas, outstanding illustration and smart storytelling, as well as new and diverse talent. The opening date for entries is 6th March and there is further information about categories, judging panel etc. on the official website.

2022 Ruth Rendell Award – launched in 2016 by the National Literacy Trust and the Authors’ Licensing and Collecting Society (ALCS) this award celebrates writers who have gone above and beyond to support literacy development in the UK over the past year. Previous winners have included Tom Palmer and Cressida Cowell. The shortlist was announced this week and the citation for each of them is impressive.

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

Frank and Bert: The One Where Bert Learns To Ride a Bike by Chris Naylor- Ballesteros – the cover illustration of this new picture book published by Nosy Crow made me smile and the review on Storysnug is tempting too. A story of friendship and first experiences to be enjoyed by young children at home or in the classroom.

Mort the Meek and the Perilous Prophecy by Rachel Delahaye illustrated by George Ermos – what a great title! Nicki Cleveland’s lovely review had added to the appeal. I love the sound of the story, balancing humour with kindness and George Ermos’s illustrative style is an added bonus.

Into the Faerie Hill by H.S. Norup – due to be published in March the theme of this story mixing folklore, family and mystery plus the woodland setting sound appealing. Read Kate Heap’s positive review to find out more.

You Don’t Know What War Is by Yeva Skalietska – a LoveReading4Kids Book of the Month this diary by a 12 year old Ukrainian girl documents her experiences from her birthday in February 2022, the Russian invasion and her subsequent journey to safety.

That’s everything for this week and I hope that this round up is helpful to you. Happy reading.

Posted in Reading Matters Children’s Book News | Tagged , , , , , | 8 Comments

Fritz and Kurt by Jeremy Dronfield illustrated by David Ziggy Greene

The true story of the Kleinmann family was first told in the The Boy Who Followed His Father into Auschwitz and Jeremy Dronfield has now rewritten this remarkable and deeply moving story for children. Despite the shocking subject matter this book is a tribute to the extraordinary power of human courage and resilience and this important story is, ultimately, uplifting.

In 1938 the Kleinmann family lived in Vienna where Fritz and his younger brother Kurt enjoyed playing football with a bundle of rags in the market square with their friends. Fritz was fourteen and is studying at the trade school so that he can be an upholsterer like his beloved papa, Gustav. His younger brother Kurt who was just eight sings in the city temple choir. Their family life together with their mum, Tini and sisters Edith and Herta is full of joy and love. But this was the time ‘before Hitler came’ as Kurt was to refer to it for the rest of his life. With the arrival of the Nazis in Vienna everything changes for the family as they along with all the other Jewish people are in grave danger.

The family are separated with Fritz along with his papa taken to a Nazi prison camp and Kurt sent across the world alone in search of safety. The book follows the experiences of the two brothers as the months stretch to years with the boys not knowing if they will ever be reunited. Much of the story follows Gustav and Fritz as they are sent first to Buchenwald and subsequently to Auschwitz with Fritz insisting on going with his father. Jeremy Dronfield has managed to convey the events at the concentration camps with great sensitivity, without minimising any aspect of the Holocaust but sparing the detail which would not be age appropriate for his audience.

This is narrative non-fiction which reads like storytelling, using dialogue and extensive research to bring the people to life on the page. In the postscript we learn that the author worked closely with the Kleinmann family, in particular Kurt with whom he formed a friendship, to ensure that the book stays as close as possible to the true events. Kurt’s experiences as a young boy arriving in a strange country unable to speak the language and far from his beloved family will resonate with young readers today. Dronfield also used the diary that somehow Gustav managed to write during his experience in the camps and interviews with Fritz. The black and white illustrations by David Ziggy Greene are quietly fitting for the story conveying much emotion in a few spare lines. The expressions on the men and boys in the camps are particularly haunting.

Throughout the whole book the close bond between the family, in particular between Fritz and his father, provides a sense of hope and optimism that ensures that young readers can also see the positive side of humanity. The kindness shown to Kurt by the family who take him in and offer him a home and education in Massachusetts and the manner in which Fritz and his father and other inmates care for each other and resist the Nazis are all positive aspects. The book is also a salutary reminder of how it is possible to treat people as ‘other’ or different and in a world that today feels hostile towards many this is a valuable lesson.

Fritz and Kurt is a compelling read and an important one. This would be a valuable addition to school libraries and is published to coincide with the commemoration of Holocaust Memorial Day on 27th January. There is a free Guide for Parents, Guardians and Teachers providing more information available on Jeremy Dronfield’s website.

If you are looking for other titles covering the Holocaust suitable for this age group I can recommend After the War by Tom Palmer and Anna at War by Helen Peters. Of course the classic by Judith Kerr, When Hitler Stole Pink Rabbit is another worth reading.

Posted in Book Review | Tagged , , , , | 6 Comments

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…

Firstly I would like to thank SF Said and Nikki Gamble for last night’s Audience With event which was a wonderful way to kick off the weekend. The discussion of SF Said’s books, his writing inspiration and the role of children’s books was full of optimism and hope. A truly uplifting evening.

As I mentioned last week I have recently finished reading The Song Walker by Zillah Bethell and it took me a few days to collect my thoughts and write a review of this thoughtful book. It is a book containing much to discuss and would be an excellent choice for book clubs. I understand that Zillah’s previous book, The Shark Caller, is now a title included in the Reading Gladiators scheme run by Just Imagine and it would not surprise me in the least to see The Song Walker there in the future. My review, I hope, does not include any spoilers but instead just a taste of why I enjoyed it so much.

We are approaching Holocaust Memorial Day on 27th January and at the moment I am reading Fritz and Kurt by Jeremy Dronfield illustrated by David Ziggy Greene. Any book with this subject matter is an emotional read but I am favourably impressed by the way in which Jeremy Dronfield balances his story with the courage and resilience shown by the young characters. Fritz and Kurt is also Book of the Week in the latest edition of Books for Keeps and is featured on the Just Imagine website in an article by Roy Moss (See links below)

News, articles and resources…

Become a reading volunteer and change a child’s story – if you were inspired by the story in the news this week of 100 year old Peter Davies who is a reading volunteer at his local school here is a wonderful opportunity to do something similar. Reading isn’t just about books. It’s about reading a road sign, a safety manual, a birthday card. It’s understanding a bank statement, a job application. Children who don’t read well by age 7 are six times more likely to drop out of school. They are also more likely to go on to be unemployed, experience poverty, and even have a shorter life expectancy. Bookmark want every child to read and through their volunteer-led reading programme you can help to make a huge difference to children’s lives. There are currently over 400 children waiting to read on their programme. For just one hour a week for six weeks you could change a child’s story. Find out more about this charity and register via the link above.

Books for Keeps January Edition – I have this lined up for my weekend reading as every article sounds of interest. It is packed with interviews and articles PLUS new year predictions and your reading highlights for the year ahead. Features Sean Taylor, Duncan Beedie, Eve Ainsworth, Beyond The Secret Garden, Beverley Naidoo plus reliable reviews of the latest books.

Nikki Gamble’s Book Blast for January 2023 – if you missed this event live the recording is now available to watch via YouTube. This is a brilliant way of keeping up to date with the best of the new children’s books being published at the moment. The linked competition is open until midday 22nd January, so if you’re super quick you can be in with the chance of winning one of those coveted book boxes!

23 children’s books to read in 2023 – The National Book Tokens team are back to highlight 23 fantastic new children’s and teen fiction books that will arrive in bookshops during the first half of the year, from hilarious escapades to magical journeys.

23 Picture Books to Look Forward to in 2023 – more temptation, this time from Clare Helen Walsh on the Picture Book Den blog. A wonderful array of picture books for all ages.

Empathy Lab Read for Empathy Collection News – EmpathyLab is busy preparing its 2023 Read for Empathy book collection – to be launched on 8 February. Consisting of 65 books for 3-16 year olds, the collection gives families, schools and libraries a focused way of helping young people learn more about empathy, and put it into action. The collection is based on scientific research showing that empathy is learnable, and that books are an important empathy-build tool. Each book has been carefully chosen by experts to do a specific empathy-building job. They offer young people different ways of experiencing, understanding and building empathy. Put the date in your diary now!

Puffin Virtual Visits – Real-life authors and illustrators will be beaming straight into classrooms around the country each term, to inspire a lifelong love of reading for your pupils. Each of the free webinar sessions will include a presentation giving pupils a behind-the-scenes look at their books, characters, and creative process before setting an exciting activity for the class. First up is Abi Elphinstone on Friday 3rd February at 2.30pm. Full details are available via the link above.

Engaging families webinar 24th January – World Book Day, with the Centre for Literacy in Primary Education, National Literacy Trust and Open University are co-hosting a webinar on how to involve and engage families in the pleasure to be found in reading. It is free to register and the even takes place Tue, 24 January 16:00 – 17:00.

FREE Children’s Author Event – Mr Dilly Meets Gill Lewis & Gillian Cross – on Tue, 7 February 11:00 – 12:00am Mr Dilly will be talking to two award-winning authors. GILL LEWIS, whose new adventure story Moonflight, is published next month and GILLIAN CROSS, back with the second exciting adventure of boy-inventor Ollie Spark in Ollie Spark and the Exploding Popcorn Mystery. You can register via the link above and can watch the event on catch up later if necessary.

Where’s Your Head At? Roy Moss blog for Just Imagine – I always enjoy Roy’s blogs for Just Imagine but this one is particularly fascinating and is worth a read. Roy gives the background to the term “Growth Mindset”, its importance in education and, helpfully, some suggestions of the types of books to share with children to encourage this attitude. I’ve bookmarked this to refer back to. Thank you, Roy!

LoveReading4Kids Free Webinars for Educators – last year LoveReading4Schools launched an online bookstore where 25% of money spent can be donated to a school of the buyer’s choice, to spend on books. Book buyers receive 10% off the RRP and even if the buyer doesn’t nominate or have an affinity with a school, 10% of the spend will be donated to schools in need, and schools can apply for this via their Funding for Schools Scheme. If you are a school librarian, a headteacher, a head of literacy or a teacher who loves books, you can sign up for the first webinars to make sure you are maximising all of the content, tools and funding opportunities that LoveReading4Kids has to offer for your school. Full details, dates, timings available via the link.

National Literacy Trust And School Libraries on the Radio – Martin Galway, Head of School Programmes at The National Literacy Trust, features in a BBC Radio Leeds story this week devoted to Primary School Library Alliance work. You can listen on the link above at around 1 hour and 13 mins in, and then again at about 3hours 20mins with added input from Hilary Robinson adding an author’s perspective.

Holocaust Memorial Day 27th January – Literacy Hive have collated a list of links to a variety of resources, interviews and lesson plans suitable for a wide age from primary to Sixth Form on their website. They include those created by the Literacy Trust and Tom Palmer plus book lists and a podcast. An extremely useful point of reference. I would also add this excellent Interview with Jeremy Dronfield, author of Fritz and Kurt by Roy James for Just Imagine

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

A Tricky Kind of Magic by Nigel Baines – this new action-packed graphic novel for emerging young readers received a lovely, positive review on the Bookbag: “The story manages to make you as believe entirely that this trick prop rabbit is talking, and that Cooper and the rabbit actually do discover a magical world where all the tricks that go wrong end up!” The positive comments about the value of graphic novels are interesting too.

Two Sides by Polly Ho-Yen and Binny Talib – this early chapter book sounds perfect for early readers of about 5-7 years old. A story of playground friendships and misunderstandings but with a happy ending is one young children will find relatable and the illustrations look gorgeous too. Thank you to Veronica Price for making me aware of this.

Protecting the Planet: The Season of Giraffes by Nicola Davies illustrated by Emily Sutton – I find any book by this duo difficult to resist and I know I’m not alone. This informative book describes how the giraffe population is affected by climate change and man’s expansion of towns. Despite the problems Tracy Parvin describes this as “a book of hope” in her review for Just Imagine.

That’s everything for this week and I hope that something here is helpful, interesting or entertaining. Happy reading!

Posted in Reading Matters Children’s Book News | Tagged , , , , , , | 4 Comments

The Song Walker by Zillah Bethell

The Shark Caller by Zillah Bethell was one of my favourite reads of 2021 so I was eager to read her new book, The Song Walker set in the Australian Outback, published in February by Usborne Books. From its intriguing opening to its emotional and fulfilling final pages this is an astonishing story about friendship and self discovery. A children’s book which provides the reader, of any age, with much to think about.

Cover illustration by Saara Söderlund

A young girl walks through a dusty, flat, red landscape beneath a blazing sun. She wears a black dress, one shoe, carries a heavy awkward case and as she struggles with exhaustion and pain she has no idea where she is. More importantly she has no idea who she is. An irresistible opening which prompts questions and ideas from the reader and leads seamlessly on to the journey of this nameless girl. She soon meets Tarni, a First Country Australian girl from the Alaywarre community on a journey of her own, and together the two girls embark on a trek across the vast Australian Outback in search of answers.

This is a story so compelling and beautifully told that I am reluctant to provide much detail regarding the plot which unfolds gradually with the author dropping subtle hints throughout which immerse the reader in the story completely. The descriptions of the setting are vivid and one can almost feel the heat the two girls are experiencing. Zillah Bethell won the Edward Stanford Children’s Travel of the Year 2022 for The Shark Caller and this story once again enables young readers to experience the landscape, flora and fauna of a far away land.

It is the two girls however that shine throughout this epic journey. Their differences and their similarities, their concerns and their questions gradually unite them in a remarkable bond as Tarni searches for her sister and the lost girl searches for her identity. As memories drift back like dreams the city girl questions herself and her attitudes and this journey of self discovery prompts the reader to think about their own sense of self too. This would be an excellent book to prompt philosophical discussion. Music threads its way through the narrative with each separate part of the story introduced with a musical term and its definition. This theme is echoed in the First Country song lines through which Tarni navigates their route across the Outback. The connections between people and places and the respect for traditions is an important aspect of this extraordinary story. Although unlike anything I have ever read it reminded me a little of the situation of the children featured in Walkabout, the book by James Vance Marshall subsequently made into a film in the 1970s. There are moments of bravery, tenderness, danger and excitement as the two young people continue on their trek but chief among all the emotions is trust. This is an unusual but important friendship through which both girls learn a great deal about themselves and, ultimately, answers to their questions.

Zillah has a writing style that I find deeply affecting. She manages to convey great emotion in an understated manner and there is wisdom in her stories too. The Song Walker is an excellent example of why children’s literature is for everyone. There are themes of identity, spirituality, discrimination and loss wrapped up in a compelling and profoundly moving story that leaves the reader enriched by the experience.

If readers would like to find out more about First Country Australians like Tarni the publishers have provided links to further information on their Usborne Quick Links website. The Song Walker is published in February 2023 and I should like to thank the publishers and Fritha Lindqvist for my review copy. You can purchase a copy here. If you have not already read The Shark Caller I would also highly recommend it. I can’t decide which I like more!

Disclosure: If you buy books linked to our site, we may earn a commission from, whose fees support independent bookshops.”

Posted in Book Review | Tagged , , , , , , | 3 Comments

Reading Matters – children’s book news

Welcome to this week’s round up of what has been happening in the world of children’s books. I have not managed as much reading as I would have liked as things have been pretty busy this week but I hope the links I’ve gathered here appeal to you.

What I’m reading…

The Kiss by Eoin McLaughlin and Polly Dunbar is a bedtime story with a difference. A flip book telling the parallel stories of bedtime for Tiger and Crocodile and snuggles with parents, this picture book is a lovely way of introducing blended families to little ones. Out now from Faber Children’s Books.

The Shark Caller by Zillah Bethell was one of my favourite reads of 2021 so I was eager to read her new story, The Song Walker set in the Australian Outback, published next month by Usborne Books. I finished this yesterday and will need to ponder for a while before I formulate my thoughts into a coherent and helpful review. Zillah has a writing style that I find deeply affecting. She manages to convey great emotion in an understated manner and there is wisdom in her stories too. The Song Walker is an excellent example of why children’s literature is for everyone. There are themes of identity, spirituality, discrimination and loss wrapped up in a compelling and profoundly moving story that leaves the reader enriched by the experience. I’ll try to write a review before next Saturday.

News, articles and resources…

Books for Topics: Best Books This Month – January 2023 – It’s easy to feel lost in the flood of so many new children’s books available. Each month the Books for Topics review panel reads scores of new books and highlights five of their recently published favourites.

Register for the 2023 Yoto Carnegies Shadowing Scheme – a reminder that you have until Friday 3rd February to register for the shadowing scheme linked to these prestigious awards. You need to register for your group to submit their reviews and artwork inspired by the shortlisted books and to vote for their favourite books to win the Shadowers’ Choice Awards. Shadowing can take place in any location in the world through access to our online resources and there is also a publicity pack available.

Lucas Maxwell’s Portable Magic Dispenser – this regular newsletter from school librarian Lucas Maxwell us always full of useful ideas and tips. This latest issue includes a free Dungeons and Dragons webinar and 30 books for people who say they don’t like reading.

Book Award Winners 2021-2022 – this helpful list is free to download from the Open University Reading for Pleasure website. This printable list contains the winning titles, author, publisher and ISBN for each award and category, so you can find and order the books quickly and easily.

Free Author Event with Louisa Reid – Hays Education and All Around Reading are hosting a free online author event with Louisa Reid on January 25th at 4.30pm suitable for secondary school teachers and librarians. During the session various themes from Louisa’s recent verse novel ‘Activist’ will be discussed and the panel will explore topics including how schools can facilitate difficult discussions around consent & respect and how schools can combat the rising tide of misogyny, sexist bullying and fear of sexual violence. Registration and full details via the link above.

Winter stories for older children (8-12) – BookTrust have selected some perfect reads to curl up with on dark winter evenings and you can find their suggestions for younger readers aged 5-8 here and also a range of picture books.

An evening with Abi Elphinstone – Abi Elphinstone joins Nikki Gamble to talk about her latest book, Saving Neverland. Abi talks about her first encounters with J M Barrie’s Peter Pan and what she loved about the book, as well as some of the problems for a 21st-century audience. She also talks about where she felt she could legitimately use her imagination to remiagine Neverland and what she felt she need to retain. I enjoyed this very much and would highly recommended it if you missed this event live earlier this month.

Quacked Spines: The Children’s Books Podcast – just before Christmas the lack of coverage of children’s books in the mainstream media was highlighted in several discussions on radio and online and this new venture by Drake the Bookshop was created in response. You can listen to the introductory trailer and the first episode via the link above.

Invention and Creation with Shane Hegarty – Join Shane Hegarty in this free Reading Agency event as he whisks us away into a world of invention and creation with The Impossible Shop of Ice Creams. Shane will deliver an inspiring talk – perfect for children aged 9-12 – and conclude with a Q&A. Wed, 25 January 2023, 10:00 – 11:00 and suitable for KS2.

Comic Boom – Comics in Education – A brand new education podcast exploring the use of comics in education. Each episode Lucy Starbucks Bradley will be joined by a special guest from a wide range of backgrounds, from passionate education professionals to academics and industry experts. The first two episodes are now available featuring school librarian Gemma Sosnowsky and cartoonist Neill Cameron.

Founder Fabia Turner’s initial reflections on Jericho Prize 2022/23 – The submission window for this award for unpublished and self-published Black-British children’s writers has recently closed. In this blogpost founder Fabia shares some insights from this year’s submissions data, and what she hopes to see in scripts from the current crop of picture book writers. There are points made about the similarities between drama and picture books that I also found fascinating.

An Educator’s Guide to Picture Books by Jacqueline Woodson – This guide accompanies the following picture books written by Jacqueline Woodson: The Day You Begin and The Year We Learned to Fly, both illustrated by Rafael López, and The World Belonged to Us, illustrated by Leo Espinosa. The guide is divided up, presenting each book with discussion questions and suggested activities and concludes with ideas about how to incorporate all three books into your classroom to encourage work with broader themes and to extend young readers’ reading experiences. Many thanks to Dr Mary Roche for making me aware of this valuable resource.

The value of representation by Kiran Satti – excellent article by Assistant Principal Kiran Satti on the Pearson’s Education’s blog expanding on the findings of the CLPE Reflecting Realities research.

Holocaust Memorial Day 2023 Resources and Event– a reminder of these resources from the National Literacy Trust and author Tom Palmer to help schools commemorate Holocaust Memorial Day on 27th January. Full details were shared in last week’s Reading Matters but the website is well, worth exploring.

FREE virtual event from Tom Palmer and the Anne Frank Trust – Thursday 2nd March 2023 (World Book Day) 10.00-11.00am. A discussion of Tom Palmer’s book Resist and the different experiences of Anne Frank and Audrey Hepburn in the Nazi occupied Netherlands during WW2 as well the theme of resistance.

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

Pick A Story A Dinosaur Unicorn Robot Adventure by Sarah Coyle illustrated by Adam Walker-Parker – for those that remember the pick your own adventure stories from their own childhood this picture book format version sounds great for inspiring today’s younger readers. An excellent review in Books for Keeps suggests that this will be popular with both families and schools.

The Curio Collectors by Eloise Williams & illustrated by Anna Shepeta – a tempting review by Kate Heap that has whetted my appetite for this historical mystery due to be published in March.

Frankenstein: A Retelling by Tanya Landman (author), Helen Crawford-White (illustrator) – I have been favourably impressed by Tanya Landman’s previous retellings of the classics for Barrington Stoke and this review on the LoveReading4Kids website suggests this new one is just as good. “Mary Shelley’s ground-breaking classic retold in concise, compelling, accessible style”

That’s everything for this week and I hope you have found something here of interest. Happy reading!

Posted in Reading Matters Children’s Book News | Tagged , , , , , , , | 3 Comments

Reading Matters – children’s book news

Happy New Year and welcome to the first Reading Matters update of 2023. This week’s round up includes both a look back at the best of 2022 and a preview of some books we can look forward to at the start of this new year. There are events and resources too so why not settle down and explore.

What I’m reading…

Before we turn to children’s books first a quick mention of some of my other reading. One of my Christmas presents was The Library: A Fragile History by Andrew Pettegree and Arthur der Weduwen a book which I am dipping into daily and finding fascinating. I do have two more daily reads, My Garden Year by Monty Don and A Year of Wonder: Classical Music for Every Day of the Year by Clemency Burton-Hall both of which act as an escape from the dreadful news everywhere at the moment. So far my resolution to read a little of these each day is working but as we’re only a week in to 2023 I mustn’t get smug!

There are numerous children’s books being published this month, many this week in fact. I have read and reviewed four of them A couple of new titles from Barrington Stoke, by Jenny Pearson and Ross Montgomery, the first in a new detective series by school librarian Lis Jardine and Abi Elphinstone’s exciting reimagining of Peter Pan, Saving Neverland which I would highly recommend for readers of about 8+. On Wednesday evening I attended the online launch event for Saving Neverland, a conversation between Abi and Nikki Gamble which was an absolute treat. The enthusiasm for imagination, adventure and the importance of children’s books was infectious and uplifting. There is also a lovely interview with Abi about this new book on the Books for Topics website here.

I have just started reading The Song Walker by Zillah Bethell and the excellent opening has definitely piqued my interest and I’m now wondering how the story will develop.

News, articles and resources…

Books for Topics Books of the Year 2022 – Alison Leach of Books for Topics invited teachers to vote for their best classroom read-alouds, the books that were the biggest hit with their pupils and the top books to support their curriculums and you can view all the category winners via the link above.

CLPE Staff Picks for 2022 – another wonderful range of books selected by the experts at the Centre for Literacy for Primary Education. The list is free to download and includes helpful summaries of the titles too.

Reading and Reflecting on Marcus Sedgwick – Former Chair of the Youth Libraries Group, Alison Brumwell, reflects upon the exceptional writing and varied career of the late Marcus Sedgwick, whose exceptional and experimental writing has done so much to enhance and enrich the lives of his readers. Marcus took part in the virtual programme for the Youth Libraries Group conference in 2022 and the insightful interview he gave with Alison is available to watch via this article.

The Reader Teacher January 2023: Books I’m Most Excited About – turning to the future, Scott Evans has selected his favourite books being published this month and you can find out more in his video. Lots of brilliant books to watch out for and helpful for both schools and families.

Book Trust New Children’s Books We Love January 2023 – every month, the Book Trust team review dozens of books for children and teenagers. Here are the ones they like best this month divided into age group categories.

Cook Up Your Own Fairy Tales with the British Library – from 25th January to 28th March the British Library are inviting children to make little books filled with storied inspired by the past. Launching with free events by Michael Rosen, Viviane Schwarz and Mara the storyteller this is is another helpful resource for schools. More details of how to get involved are available on the official website above.

An Evening with Richard O’Neill in Conversation with Nikki Gamble – Scholastic and Just Imagine are celebrating the publication of Richard O’Neill’s A Different Kind of Freedom: A Romani Story, the latest title in Scholastic’s popular Voices series. Free Online event via EVENTBRITE 18th January 7.00 – 8.00 pm Audience: For teachers, librarians, booksellers and anyone interested in children’s books. Children may watch with you.

Holocaust Memorial Day 27th January Resources – With the help of funding support from the Marks Family Charitable Trust, the Association of Jewish Refugees and The Blue Thread, award winning children’s author Tom Palmer has teamed up with the National Literacy Trust to produce free resources for use in the classroom or at home, to help schools commemorate this day. The resources are designed to be used throughout the week beginning Monday 23 January 2023, for use with students aged 10 to 14 (Upper Key Stage 2 and Key Stage 3). You can also find out more and view resources from earlier years on Tom Palmer’s website. In addition on 27th January: 2:00 to 2:45pm. A free online Q&A event with Tom interviewing Mala
Tribich, a Holocaust survivor. For further info on this event and to register click here. The webinar will remain on the National Literacy Trust’s website as a resource video after the event.

How a School Library Can Have Impact – Barbara Band MCLIP, School Library Consultant, and co-author of Creating a School Library with Impact, explains how a school library is more than just a room with books in this article for Book Trust.

2023 TV shows and movies: The children’s books to read before they hit your screens – the Book Trust team have collated this list of titles that will be shown on TV or cinema over the coming year, a mix of favourites for all ages.

Diverse Class Books: by Ashley Booth – a true labour of love, teacher, reading for pleasure speaker and bookseller Ashley Booth has put together this spreadsheet of diverse and inclusive books. He has split the books according to year group (Nursery/Reception – Year 6) and he has indicated which books have resources available on Authorfy and the Literacy Shed websites. Ashley says it will be a working document and will be updated regularly as new books come out. This is a huge amount of work so a big thank you to Ashley.

Lollies Awards Shortlist Announced – Pooja Puri, Dapo Adeola and Nadia Shireen are among the authors and illustrators who have made the shortlist for the Laugh Out Loud Book Awards. Known as The Lollies, the prize is a set of awards created by Scholastic UK that celebrate the funniest children’s books. They were created in response to the end of the Roald Dahl Funny Prize in 2015 and have been expanded this year, adding additional categories following the news that the Blue Peter Book Awards have also ended. Voting takes place via the Scholastic website here.

Literacy teaching and school events calendar 2022-2023 – a quick reminder of this resource from the National Literacy Trust providing ideas and literacy teaching resources for cultural events and UK awareness days.

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

The Tiger Who Sleeps Under My Chair by Hannah Foley – published next month to link with Children’s Mental Health Week this story told through two timelines sounds both thoughtful and interesting. Teacher Tom Griffiths says in his review that, ‘With such a powerful story, it’s excellent and responsible to see that Hannah does a Q&A around mental health at the end, along with some important websites and phone numbers which can support readers further.’ A helpful book for school libraries.

21% Monster: Ice Giant – P. J. Canning – I had missed the first instalment of this adventure series but Rich Simpson’s review of the second book in the series published this week suggests this would be popular with many readers. Rich says it should appeal to fans of Horowitz’s Alex Rider, and lovers of authors such as Christopher Edge and Jennifer Bell. A broad appeal!

Albi the Glowing Cow Boy by Georgia Byng, illustrated by Angela Cogo – another book published this week that I had not heard of but does sound a little bit different. Veronica Price is a review whose opinion I trust so this story about a calf and a boy whose lives become intertwined is going on my wish list. It’s difficult to summarise why so do please read Veronica’s review to find out more. I love the gorgeous cover by Levi Pinfold too.

That’s everything for this week. I hope the first few days back to school have gone well for teachers, librarians and school staff and for children and families too.

Posted in Reading Matters Children’s Book News | Tagged , , , , , , | 7 Comments

Children’s Books – ones to watch out for in January 2023

We can start the year with a smile thanks to two new books from Barrington Stoke this month. For many years I have been a fan of this particular publisher, their books are accessible and perfect for those who may struggle with longer texts or the mechanics of reading yet they are top quality stories, engaging, well written and often the key that opens the door to reading for pleasure.

Jenny Pearson is an author who has quickly developed a reputation for balancing laugh out loud hilarity with a thoughtful look at life and Bertie and the Alien Chicken is another lovely example of her skill. Bertie is reluctant to spend the summer holidays with his Uncle Brian on Long Bottom Farm. Bertie is not a fan of the countryside which is, in his opinion, smelly and lacking in entertainment. Things take an unexpected turn when he meets a chicken name Nugget, an alien visitor from Nurgle 7 on a mission to find Earth’s most important resource. Cue misunderstandings, mishaps and giggles before Bertie and Nuggle start to think about the intangible things that may matter most such as friendship, loneliness and kindness.

Some important discussion about feelings and acknowledging them is wrapped up in the silliness and there is understanding and kindness conveyed in the writing. The humorous illustrations by Aleksei Bitsoff add to the enjoyment, particularly the depiction of Nugget. I, along with young readers I expect, am hoping this is the first in a series of adventures starring Bertie.

Ross Montgomery’s series of Shakespeare linked stories continue with Fortune’s Fools: A Romeo Roller Coaster, a school story inspired by Romeo and Juliet. He has transferred the tragedy between two warring families to a sporting competition which gradually degenerates into a battle mirroring the conflict of the famous play. Best friends, Dom and Blake, have been chums forever, sharing a love and talent for sport. This year however the annual sports day has taken on a different atmosphere. Mr Fortune has named the school houses after the characters from Romeo and Juliet and the two friends, representing Capulet House and Montague House, are drawn into a battle that neither of them expected or wanted.

This is another story full of humour but told with an acknowledgment of the importance of friendship and an understanding of school life. The depiction of the warring drama and PE teachers made me smile too! Young readers will relate to the experiences in Fortune’s Fools and the engaging writing style and illustrations by Mark Beech ensure this introductions to one of literature’s most well known plays is appealing.

Both Bertie and the Alien Chicken and Fortune’s Fools: A Romeo Roller Coaster are published on 5th January by Barrington Stoke.

Abi Elphinstone was an inspired choice to write, Saving Neverland, a reimagining of the classic story of Peter Pan for a contemporary audience. In her capable hands the sexist and racist elements of the original are discarded yet the mercurial and intriguing aspect of Peter’s character are retained along with the excitement and danger of wild adventure. Abi Elphinstone’s previous books have combined enthralling escapades with kindness and humanity and in Saving Neverland she has done it again.

Ten year old Martha Pennydrop lives in a perfectly ordinary looking townhouse with her younger brother, Scruff. Their father is overworked and exhausted and their mother is absent so Martha takes upon herself the responsibility of looking after Scruff. In her efforts to care for him properly, especially after the events of the Terrible Day which she prefers not to think of, Martha has decided she is too old for make believe games, toys and childhood imagination. She is desperate to grow up and her life is now a lengthy to do list.

However their house has a history, having once belonged to the Darling family. Soon mysterious gold dust, an open window and night time visitors launch Martha into an incredible adventure in a far off land. Neverland and Peter Pan are in need of help as the country is in the grip of a curse put upon it by Peter’s old foe, Captain Hook. Martha is extremely reluctant but when Scruff is kidnapped she must rediscover her sense of adventure and belief in magic to save her brother and Neverland itself.

Abi Elphinstone has created a world of snow tigers and frost bears, ice sharks and snowy mountains making this a perfect winter read. It is refreshing to see Peter Pan partnered with a female character such as Martha. No darning of his socks this time! Her gradual development into a brave and determined adventurer is believable and is central to the plot. The Lost Kids add an extra dimension to the story and the inclusion of childhood toys, in particular Armageddon the woolly mammoth, will delight young readers.

A story about the transition from childhood yet with the importance of retaining a sense of adventure and fun running through its pages this is a joyful adventure capturing the best of the original and giving it a fresh relevance. Beautifully illustrated throughout and on the cover by Geraldine Rodrigues and published by Puffin in hardback on 5th January.

If mystery and whodunnits appeal to the young readers in your life then The Detention Detectives a debut by school librarian Lis Jardine may be just what you need. Following a house move Jonno Archer reluctantly finds himself joining Year 7 at Hanbridge High and is determined to persuade his parents that the move was a mistake. Finding a dead body on the school premises is the last thing Jonno needs but he decides to use it to his advantage and if he’s in deep trouble surely his mum and dad will take him back to his old school and his friends. Meanwhile he definitely does not want to make new friends, however he finds himself drawn into an investigation alongside fellow pupils, Daniel and Lydia and matters develop in dangerous and unexpected ways.

The clues, red herrings and plot twists mount up in this pacy adventure and junior sleuths will enjoy trying to solve the crime alongside the characters. The trio of children make an interesting and somewhat unlikely team. School reporter Lydia, bossy and businesslike, young carer Daniel desperate to protect his Mum from the effects of the crime and slightly prickly Jonno with his secret agenda may have been thrown together by circumstances yet the development of their relationship is entertaining. The first in a new series, this would be great for fans of the Murder Most Unladylike series by Robin Stevens. Cover illustration by Glenn Thomas and published in paperback by Puffin on 5th January.

I should like to thank Barrington Stoke, Kirstin Lamb, Puffin Books, Michelle Nathan and Phoebe Williams for providing my review copies.

Posted in Book Review | Tagged , , , , , , | 3 Comments

Reading Matters – children’s book news

Welcome to my last round up of children’s book news for 2022. This week there has been more attention given to children’s literature in the main stream media than I have seen for a long time. This is a positive step and I’m sure I’m not alone in hoping that this is something that will be developed further in the coming months.

What I’m reading…

Cover illustration by Geraldine Rodriguez

There’s not been much time for reading this week but I have started Saving Neverland by Abi Elphinstone and am enjoying being transported back to my childhood. This has Abi’s trademark love of adventure plus a kind, sensibility that ensures it will be welcomed by today’s readership. I’m hoping to have time to curl up and finish this soon. In the links below you will find information about the online launch of Saving Neverland, hosted by Nikki Gamble of Just Imagine, on 4th January.

News, articles and resources

Christmas Reading Times 2022 – a great big thank you to wonderful school librarian Helen Smith of Eckington School who once again has produced this guide to books on TV this Christmas for both adults and children. You can view the primary age version here.

Just Imagine Favourite Books of 2022 – Jo Bowers reviews editor at Just Imagine, working with Nikki Gamble, Director of Just Imagine, asked their book reviewers for their top choices for 2022. A wonderful selection to browse for gift ideas or suggestions for titles to add to your reading lists at home or school in 2023.

Children’s books: 56 cracking reads to keep kids entertained this Christmas – Sarah Webb has chosen books for different age groups in this excellent and varied range of books. Perfect if you are looking for ideas for Christmas presents.

The best children’s books of 2022 – Imogen Carter’s picture books of the year, Kitty Empire’s chapter books of the year and Fiona Noble’s YA books of the year make up the selection in the Guardian. More temptation!

Love My Books December Newsletter – the latest brilliant newsletter includes top ten picturebooks 2022, Christmas stories, a focus on Tyger by SF Said including a terrific range of teaching ideas and activities in a free to download booklet. Highly recommended.

Steer clear of ‘mediocre writing’ by celebrities for Christmas, authors plead – there are contributions from authors Piers Torday and Anthony McGowan and literary agent Claire Wilson in this Observer article with which many children’s book lovers will be nodding in agreement.

Frank Cottrell-Boyce and Robin Stevens on BBC Radio4 Today – following on from the article above, award winning authors, Frank Cottrell- Boyce and Robin Stevens were interviewed on the Today programme on 13th December (at 2hrs 23mins) about the lack of discussion of children’s books in the main stream media. Includes book recommendations from them both and Frank saying ‘schools need librarians.’ Yay, hurray for Frank!

Author Katya Balen on BBC Radio4 Today – children’s books on national radio twice in one week! A discussion focusing on the current situation regarding the representation of children’s books in the media and the importance of the Carnegie award. The interview is available via this link until 20th December.

Celebrity has ruined children’s books – but we are going to fight back! – article by Ben Lawrence in the Telegraph (which is behind a paywall) but he makes a pledge that from January the paper will review one new children’s book per week. This article resulted in both Ben Lawrence and Michael Rosen being interviewed on BBCRadio4 Today on Friday. You can listen here at the end of the the programme, the last five minutes of the recording. Three days on the trot! Could this be the start of something?

The best children’s books of 2022 – plus a chance to win them! – Start children off on a lifelong journey of reading with Big Issue books editor Jane Graham’s pick of the best children’s books from 2022. Then check out our competition at the end to win all 15 books.

Shirley Hughes remembered by Clara Vulliamy – a beautiful tribute to the much loved author and illustrator who died earlier this year by her daughter, Clara Vulliamy.

Quentin Blake: The Drawing of My Life – this week marked the 90th birthday of Sir Quentin Blake and this BBC programme, originally shown last year, tells the story of his 70-year-long career in his own words and with his own pictures.

Lucas Maxwell’s Last Minute Book Gift Guide – super school librarian Lucas Maxwell shared this guide with parents at his school this week and I’m sure it will be helpful to others too. Suitable for readers aged 10+ and divided into genres.

Dates for your diary in January: Just Imagine and Nikki Gamble have some exciting events for you to look forward to in the New Year. There are 4 free book launches for teachers, librarians and booksellers but the Just Imagine team suggest that children may like to watch with an adult as there will be no inappropriate content.

4th January – 7.00 – 8.00 Abi Elphinstone – Saving Neverland

18th January 7.00 – 8.00 Richard O’Neill – A Romani Story

26th January 6.30 – 7.45, James Carter, Neal Layton, Brian Moses, Ed Boxall – An Evening of Poetry

31st January 7.00 – 8.00 Gill Lewis – Moonflight

January Book Blast is on 3rd January at 7.00

Another January date that schools may wish to prepare for is Holocaust Memorial Day 2023 which takes place on Friday 27th January. With the help of funding support from the Marks Family Charitable Trust, the Association of Jewish Refugees and The Blue Thread, award winning children’s author Tom Palmer has teamed up with the National Literacy Trust to produce free resources for use in the classroom or at home, to help schools commemorate this day. The resources are designed to be used throughout the week beginning Monday 23 January 2023, for use with students aged 10 to 14 (Upper Key Stage 2 and Key Stage 3). Please visit Tom Palmer’s website to find out more and to register for a reminder.

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

Southgate – Ultimate Football Heroes By Matt & Tom Oldfield – as I write this newsletter there is debate in the news about whether Gareth Southgate will call it a day after England’s defeat in the World Cup quarter finals. Whatever his decision I imagine there will be quite a large audience for this particular biography aimed at readers aged 7+. Joanne Owen of LoveReading4Kids provides an insight.

The Octopus, Dadu and Me by Lucy Ann Unwin – there is something rather lovely about a children’s book that is able to capture the special relationship between a child and their grandparent and this sounds like one that does. Tom Griffiths says in his review, “There is so much to love about this story but what struck me was the power of connections.” One to watch out for in January.

The Terror of Hilltop House by Dan Smith – another January highlight. This is not a review but a guest post by author Dan Smith on Kate Heap’s blog that has whetted my appetite for this creepy tale.

Moving Towards The Shortest Day…Books To Take You There – Mary Esther Judy selects some of her favourite children’s books, both old favourites and newer titles, that are perfect to read on long, dark winter evenings.

That’s everything for this week and for this year. Thank you for reading and for the kind feedback which helps more than you may realise. Wishing you a very happy and healthy Christmas with family and friends. I’ll finish with an illustration by the wonderful Shirley Hughes who we said a sad goodbye to this year but whose books will always remain with us.

Posted in Reading Matters Children’s Book News | Tagged , , , , , , | 8 Comments

Reading Matters – children’s book news

Welcome to this week’s round up of what has been happening in the world of children’s books. Real life has rather interrupted things for me recently so I’m sure I’ve missed things this time but hope that this week’s selection does at least provide a flavour of what is going on.

What I’m reading…

I don’t know quite how Jenny Pearson balances laugh out loud hilarity with poignant themes of love and loss so well but I’m glad she does. At the start of the week I finished reading Jenny Pearson’s Operation Nativity, so packed full of joy, appealing characters and a kindly look at the true meaning of Christmas that it should be on prescription as a life enhancing read. Oscar and his adorable little sister, Molly, the ‘actual Angel Gabriel’ plus Donald the Donkey and their attempts to save the first Christmas were a real mood lifter for me. My proof copy had a few jolly illustrations by Katie Kear and the published version is illustrated throughout. Recommended for about 8+ and adults will enjoy it too.

Marya Khan and the Incredible Henna Party, written by Saadia Faruqi and illustrated by Ani Bushry, is a great early chapter book for younger readers. Friendship and family relationships are portrayed realistically and with understanding. This is the first in a new series from Abrams Books and would be just right for children in Year 3&4.

This week I also read two rather special books, Christmas by Jan Pienskowski and King of Kings by Susan Hill illustrated by John Lawrence both of which are beautiful in different ways. I bought my second hand copies from Tygertale’s excellent Etsy shop. Jake has many more treasures to explore here.

News, articles and resources…

Best children’s and YA books of 2022 – a lovely selection from Imogen Russell Williams. She recommends the brilliant Britannica Baby Encyclopedia and SF Said’s excellent Tyger among a range of titles ranging from journeys through music, history, magic and more, plus the standout books for young adults.

Resist – an extra FREE Christmas story ” Silent Night” by Tom Palmer – A Christmas story based on the true story of Audrey Hepburn’s wartime childhood. In which Audrey – age 15 – helps the Dutch resistance to distribute presents to local children, presents that the Nazis had looted from Dutch shops to take home to Germany. You can read the story online on Tom’s website linked above or watch him read it on YouTube

‘I love writing for children’: Emma Thompson and Axel Scheffler on their amazing shaggy dog story – The Oscar-winning actor and the Gruffalo illustrator have teamed up to create a tale about a scruffy hound. They discuss corgis, comic books and how their friend

Flint High School Reading Advent Calendar – apologies that I missed this last week but it’s not too late to catch up with the first week of recommended books in this brilliant video. Created by two teachers from Flint High School the video presents a fabulous selection of contemporary children’s, tween and YA books introduced by the authors themselves.

Midwinter magic: Robert Macfarlane on the enduring power of The Dark Is Rising – Susan Cooper’s 1973 novel, newly adapted for a BBC audio series, has enthralled generations of children and writers with its folkloric tale of an English boy caught in a battle between light and dark.

Christmas Card Draw-a-Long with BookTrust Writer-Illustrator in Residence Nick Sharratt – this is fun. Learn how to make Christmas cards with popular illustrator Nick Sharratt.

Seven Super Christmas Picture Books – and more from Nick Sharratt here as he shares some festive books to snuggle up with.

Welcome to the wonderful world of Noodle Juice – I noticed a bit of a buzz online about this new publisher and this guest post in the Federation of Children’s Book Groups website has encouraged me to look out for their books in future.

Book Clubs in Schools Entered in the Smiley Charity Film Awards – The Charity Film Awards have been created to celebrate the success of film in fundraising, to increase exposure of charity films and to encourage donations for good causes. You can watch the video created by Book Clubs in Schools via the link, find out more about the awards and vote via the link above.

BookTrust New children’s books we love for December – Every month, the BookTrust team review dozens of books for children and teenagers. This month’s selection, divided into age categories, includes the excellent Britannica’s Baby Encyclopedia, Operation Nativity mentioned above, plus a range of picture books, fiction and nonfiction for all tastes.

Federation of Children’s Book Groups Annual Conference 2023 – a date for your diaries. Early Bird booking is now available until mid-January for the FCBG 2023 conference taking place at Rugby School 14th -16th April 2023. The theme this year is, Portable Magic: How To Catch A Reader. More details including confirmed speakers so far are a via the link.

A Winter Book List from CLPE – a wonderful selection of picture books and fiction to bring some winter warmth and Christmas cheer chosen by the the book experts at the Centre for Literacy in Primary Education.

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

The Snow Bear by Holly Webb – the tenth anniversary edition of this magical take set in the Arctic would probably be a lovely Christmas gift. Tracy Evans in her review for Just Imagine says ‘…it has lost none of its magic and is as relevant today as it was in its original form.

You Are History by Greg Jenner illustrated by Jenny Taylor – a Book of the Week in the Books for Keeps online journal is definitely worth looking out for. A great review suggests that this would be an excellent addition to primary school library and classroom shelves.

Winter Magic edited by Abi Elphinstone – this is an old review on the Bookbag website but this is quite possibly my favourite ‘winter collection’ so I would like to highlight it again. A wonderful range of stories by some of the very best current authors for children there is not a weak link among them and this is lovely to share at home or in the classroom.

That’s everything for this week. Happy reading!

Posted in Reading Matters Children’s Book News | Tagged , , , , , | 4 Comments