Prestel Publishing Bringing Art to Children of All Ages

Prestel Publishing are an independent publisher of books on art history and design however they also publish quality books for children. Today I would like to share two rather lovely books which combine both of these specialities.

Ella in the Garden of Giverny by Daniel Fehr illustrated by Monika Vaicenaviciene

This beautiful picture book about Claude Monet, providing a child’s eye view of the famous artist and his life, is exquisitely presented and well researched.

It tells the story of Ella, the daughter of an artist, who sneaks into Monet’s garden, watching him and drawing him in secret. One day the old man who “looks funny with his long beard and hat” notices Ella and calls her over to look at her sketchbook. This sharing of a love of drawing and painting starts a conversation and Ella gradually develops a friendship with him. As Monet talks Ella, and the young reader, learn about the ideas behind Impressionism, his beautiful garden and the life of Monet himself. Just like Ella they will also learn the importance of perseverance and pursuing your dream even during difficulties.

Daniel Fehr skilfully weaves facts into this narrative so that it still feels like natural storytelling and this would be lovely to read aloud. It is conversational in tone, as the old man imparts the wisdom gained through experience. There is also a brief biography of Monet, a picture gallery and information about Giverny and the museums at the end of the book.

Monika Vaicenaviciene’s subtle illustrations are perfect for this story. She manages to interpret Monet’s gardens in a style reminiscent of the great artist’s work without ever appearing to be copying his paintings. It feels like a homage to his work and style. There is also a subtle difference between the delicate illustrations depicting Monet’s gardens and life at the time of Ella’s visit and those included conveying his earlier life and work. This is both a visually stunning and fascinating book. Although marketed at age 5+ I think this would also appeal to children in the upper junior age range.

Olaf Hajek’s Fantastic Fruits by Annette Roeder illustrations by Olaf Hajek

This stunning, large format book, the third in the series following Flower Power and Veggie Power, is an exploration of the world of fruit. Olaf Hajek’s vibrant and slightly surreal paintings are paired with fascinating text by Annette Roeder incorporating information, history and folklore.

Did you know that the science of fruit is called pomology? That the pomegranate was linked to the story of Helen of Troy? That Christopher Columbus received a pineapple as a gift? Within the first few pages of this book the reader has learned all of this and more. The text is immediately engaging and this book would appeal to a wide age range; there is something here for adult readers too. The presentation is extremely eye catching and for those not familiar with Hajek’s art, revelatory. Each painting is given a full page with text appearing opposite and this is most definitely a book to linger over. Sometimes the fruit appears to be being worn, either as a headdress, jewellery or part of an outfit. In other paintings an outsize melon is being sat upon by a couple while held aloft by others and a cheerful hedgehog carries a raspberry and blackberry along on his back . There are cultural references in both the art and the writing with links to Greek myths, the Bible, history and contemporary culture. Each description includes the country of origin of the particular fruit and other names it may be known by.

This would I think be a valuable book for use in the classroom being suitable for cross curricular work. There is a large amount of text on each page so perhaps a book to be shared by an adult with children who have not developed reading stamina. The colourful paintings alone would prompt discussion too.

Both of these beautiful books were published by Prestel Publishing in March and are available to purchase on their official website. I should like to thank Catherine Ward and the publishers for providing my review copies.

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Reading Matters – children’s book news

Welcome to this week’s catch up with what has been happening in the world of children’s books. Yet another busy week and I know I haven’t included everything but I hope this selection gives you a taste of the wonderful things being organised, produced and shared by the children’s literature creators and supporters.

What I’m reading…

I have recently finished reading, or in a couple of cases, re-reading the books shortlisted for this year’s Tir na n-Og English Language Award. Huge congratulations to Lesley Parr whose debut novel, The Valley of Lost Secrets was announced as the winner last night.

What on Earth Magazines, in collaboration with Encyclopaedia Britannica, have recently released a new monthly non-fiction magazine, Britannica Magazine. I was impressed with my review copy and think this magazine would be great for primary school libraries, issued monthly, crammed with facts, stunning photos, puzzles and interesting articles to inspire. It reminded me of magazines I used to enjoy as a child and that’s intended as a compliment! Great for browsing and learning.

Following last week’s brilliant Needle by Patrice Lawrence over the last few days I have read another book for teens that I would highly recommend. Reading Between the Lies by Malcom Duffy is is a story of family drama, secrets, lies and finding the courage to deal with life’s more difficult experiences. It shines a light on the impact dyslexia can have on young people’s lives and the barrier it creates. I found it a gripping and enjoyable read and grew fond of both the boys in the story.

Last but not least I am re-reading The Magician’s Nephew by C S Lewis at the moment in readiness for Chris Lovegrove’s Narniathon next week. The last time I read it I think I was eleven years old and the memories have come flooding back.

News, articles and resources…

Choosing Books for the Classroom – a reminder of these free webinars hosted by Nikki Gamble and streaming live via Facebook. All session start at 4.15pm. Books for Year 3 Monday 6th June with Caroline Bradley, Year 4 Friday 10th June with Jo Bowers, Year 5 Wednesday 8th June with Roy Moss and Erin Hamilton, Year 6 Tuesday 14th June with Stephen Connor. You can also catch up with the Year 1 and 2 sessions if, like me, you missed them this week.

Bookmark: disability and books – are you looking for information on disability and children’s books? Book Trust’s Bookmark is full of advice and book recommendations for families, teachers, librarians, authors and publishers. The Book of the Month is Reading Between the Lies by Malcolm Duffy (mentioned above) and there is also an article by Malcolm about the stigma still surrounding dyslexia plus a blogpost by Rebecca Patterson on the need for children’s books to show disability and diversity.

Young Wild Writer Competition – entries are now being accepted for this writing competition that will be judged by author Gill Lewis. The organisers are looking for a piece of written work, up to 500 words, relating to animal journeys. You can write a poem, a piece of prose, an article or a diary entry…it’s up to you. There are three age groups:Young (5-8 years) Junior (9-12 years) Senior (13-16 years) and the closing date is 10th July. Full details available via the link above.

Book Clubs in School Summer Book Club – the Summer Book Club is a set of questions and activities based around everyone reading the same book. It is for new Year 7s to do over the summer as part of their preparation for secondary school. This year’s book is Twitch by M G Leonard. The activities and linked resources are free and Walker have arranged a discount on group sets of books for participating schools. Full details of the scheme and how to get involved are on the website above.

Perdu read by Richard Jones – this would be lovely to share with young children during National Share a Story Month. Perdu, the moving, beautifully illustrated story of a little lost dog and his search for a place to call home is one of my favourite picture books and here is your chance to listen to it being read aloud by its creator. Perdu is shortlisted for the Picture Book Category of this year’s Children’s Book Award.

Black Books Every School Should Have – educator and publisher Fabia Turner shares her recommendations. Ideal for sharing or reading aloud, these high-quality inclusive texts, featuring Black characters, are must-haves for school and home — includes seven books by Black authors/illustrators.

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.

The Empathy Superpower Challenge – The Empathy Superpower Challenge is made up of nine different tasks, each one helping to boost your empathy skills. Complete three tasks and a badge to share with the world. Complete all nine and children will be able to download a certificate signed by Michael Rosen. Find out more about the challenge on the website above or sign up as a school to receive resources and information here.

Children’s Fiction: Ten You Might Have Missed selected by Books for Topics – With so many new children’s books published each month, often just a handful of key titles claim the spotlight. Alison Leach 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.

The 2022 Branford Boase Award Shortlist – a guest post by literature critic and children’s author Imogen Russell Williams on the Library Girl and Book Boy blog looking at the great selection of books on this year’s shortlist for the most outstanding debut for children.

Oscar’s Book Prize 2002 Winner Revealed – the winner of this year’s Oscar’s Book Prize at an awards ceremony in London this week. The award, supported by Amazon, the National Literacy Trust and the Evening Standard, crowned Maybe…, by author and illustrator Chris Haughton, as the winner, topping the shortlist of magical stories to take home the £10,000 literary prize.

The Klaus Flugge Prize Shortlist Announced – set up to honour Klaus Flugge, this prize is awarded to the most promising and exciting newcomer to children’s picture book illustration. From a longlist of twenty-four picture books by debut illustrators, the panel of judges have chosen six to shortlist. I was delighted to see The Tale of the Whale, illustrated by Padmacandra and written by Karen Swann included. Find out more about the award and see all the books on the shortlist via the link above.

Platinum Jubilee live draw-along with Steve Antony – Join Steve Antony, author and illustrator of The Queen’s Hat, The Queen’s Handbag, The Queen’s Present and The Queen’s Lift-Off for a special Platinum Jubilee draw-along. Although places on the Zoom webinar are now full it is possible to watch live via YouTube and the event will be recorded to watch later too.

Celebrating Five Years of Reading for Pleasure! – the Open University Reading for Pleasure coalition has now been making a difference for 5 years. If you are involved in children’s books in any capacity no doubt you will have been aware of the wonderful work being done by this team. If not then please do explore the website and sign up for the newsletter, both of which are hugely valuable resources.

Barnes Children’s Literature Festival – tickets go on sale today and the full line up looks brilliant, including Frank Cottrell Boyce, Emma Carroll, Michelle Paver, Chris Haughton, Piers Torday. It takes places 25th and 26th June and the full programme can be seen via the link above.

Books for Keeps May Issue – this was published yesterday and should keep me occupied over the weekend. This online magazine is my go to source of information about children’s books and the latest issue contains a plethora of must read articles, interviews and reviews. There is so much of value here I’m reluctant to highlight only a couple of things. Highly recommended.

Andersen Press and Nikki Gamble Present an Evening With Phil Earle – what a treat this will be. I’ve already signed up! Join Nikki Gamble in conversation with Phil Earle to celebrate the publication of his new book WHILE THE STORM RAGES. Monday 30th May at 7pm. You can book tickets via the link above. Be quick!

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

Flooded By Mariajo Ilustrajo – I like the look and sound of this new debut picture book and its themes. The glimpse of the illustrations in this review by Tita Berredo on the My Book Corner blog are tempting too. “With wit and humour, Flooded touches the subject of community, compassion, and equality versus equity. A beautiful, fun, and moving picture book for all ages, times, and cultures.”

Stitched Up by Steve Cole – an excellent 5 Star review by Sue Magee on the Bookbag review website of this new title for Barrington Stoke. “A dyslexia-friendly look at what’s behind the cheap fashion garments you find on the high street. It’s a social problem which is being highlighted but that takes nothing away from the fact that it’s a good, engaging story. Highly recommended.”

Hedgewitch by Skye McKenna – a lovely review by Mary Esther Judy of a book that has been receiving a great deal of attention recently. Mary says the story is, “Full of conflict which is realistically solved, it speaks eloquently of family life and history. Beautifully paced with adventure, imaginative, filled with friendship…and it all feels so real. Magical in every way. This is everything I look for in a “witchy”book.”

Social Media Survival Guide Written by Holly Bathie Illustrated by Kate Sutton, Richard Merritt Illustration, Hammond – this new book published by Usborne is a comprehensive guide filled with information on everything from privacy settings, direct messaging and bullying, to appearance-enhancing filters, influencers and fake news. In her helpful and comprehensive review for LoveReading4Kids Joy Court describes it as, “A must for school libraries and one that parents will want to have available in the home for their own information too.

That’s everything for this week and I hope it’s been helpful to you. I’m off to read Books for Keeps and with luck start Phil Earle’s new book which I have been looking forward to for ages. Happy reading!

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Read Between the Lies by Malcolm Duffy

Read Between the Lies is a story of family drama, secrets, lies and finding the courage to deal with life’s more difficult experiences. It also has at its core a valuable message. Malcolm Duffy’s latest novel for teens shines a light on the impact dyslexia can have on young people, providing a voice for those who may struggle to cope with it and ensuring that those who don’t learn to understand and empathise with them.

Tommy and Ryan are two teenage boys thrown together by circumstance. Tommy’s mum and Ryan’s dad have moved in together and Tommy, just released from Feltham Young Offenders unit and piano playing, A grade student Ryan appear to have little in common. However tough talking Tommy hides a wish to sort his life out and make his future brighter, and Ryan feels constrained by expectations and wants to do something to change people’s perceptions of him. As the two youngsters try to adapt to their changed circumstances hidden secrets and family lies threaten to overwhelm both of them.

Told in alternate chapters in the voices of Tommy and Ryan this has an intensity and immediacy that brings both the boys and their lives vividly to life. The well paced plot is expertly structured and this is an utterly engrossing read and a book I wanted to share with others as soon as I had finished it. Although the impact of dyslexia on young people’s lives was the catalyst for the story and is at the heart of the book Malcolm Duffy draws on other experiences familiar to many. The effects of divorce on children, no matter their ages, the difficulties of attempting to blend families, the pressures on teens from a variety of sources all of these subjects are brought in to the story in a realistic and thoughtful manner.

As a adult reader I quickly cared about both the boys and their welfare. These are two well rounded and believable characters as are the adults in their lives with all the flaws and idiosyncrasies that real people have. There were moments that made me smile and others that made me well up. Good people can make mistakes and sometimes those mistakes can have far reaching consequences. The importance of honesty is highlighted as the reader watches as events unfold in dramatic fashion.

The inclusion of a helpful teacher with knowledge and understanding of how to cope with dyslexia is a thoughtful and positive touch and each chapter heading is written in a format that provides readers with an insight in to how letters appear on the page for those with dyslexia. There are also links to helpful sources of information and support at the end of the book.

Malcolm Duffy tells his story with a kind humour and this compelling read for teen readers is full of empathy and encouragement. A book you feel better for having read and highly recommended.

I should like to thank Zephyr Books and Fritha Lindqvist for my review copy. Read Between the Lies was published on 5th May and is available to purchase at your local independent bookshop or online via Bookshop.org.

You may find this article by Malcolm Duffy for BookTrust interesting and this video of him introducing Read Between the Lies gives you a taste of what to expect from the book.

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The Tir na n-Og English Language Award Shortlist

On Friday 20th May the announcement of the winner of a rather special children’s book award will be made.

The Tir na n-Og Awards were established by the Books Council Of Wales in 1976, and are given annually to honour original works of fiction or non-fiction by authors and illustrators of children’s books in Welsh and English published during the previous year. They aim to recognise, celebrate and promote high quality books for children and young people. The awards are named for Tír na nÓg, the “Land of the Young”, an otherworldly realm in Irish mythology.

Sponsored by CILIP Cymru Wales, the English-language shortlist celebrates books with an authentic Welsh background for children and young people. There are also two other prizes for Welsh language books for primary and secondary ages. The aim is to celebrate reading for pleasure and to inspire reading choices for young readers. Through the awards, children and young people can enjoy and be inspired by stories and writing from or about Wales.

This year’s shortlist for the English Language Award is made up of four, rather than the customary three, books and features a thoughtful story of the healing power of nature, a wartime drama of family and community, a retelling of ancient legends and a colourful cast of characters from Welsh history. Although quite different in content I do think that as a group they provide a fascinating overview of Welsh history, life and culture. I have thoroughly enjoyed reading, and in a couple of cases re-reading, these books recently all of which would be a valuable addition to primary school libraries and classrooms.

Swan Song by Gill Lewis

Swan Song is a thoughtful and sensitively written story about teenage mental health which highlights the power of nature to restore and heal troubled minds.

We first meet Dylan as he is excluded from school after hitting another pupil. He was formerly a happy boy, but found the transition to his grammar school difficult and his unhappiness and anxiety has manifested itself in increasingly disruptive behaviour culminating in this act with its dramatic repercussions. Dylan’s mother makes the decision to leave her job and return to her childhood home in Wales with Dylan to live with her father.

Gradually through his Grandfather’s non-judgemental attitude and kindness things begin to change for Dylan. However it is the link to nature that most profoundly affects him. Grandad takes Dylan out in his boat and it is the wide open seas and skies, the freedom and lack of pressure that calms him and enables him to learn how to relax and be himself. Grandad’s love of and interest in the whooper swans who return to the bay each winter is infectious and soon Dylan finds that he is concerned for their welfare and habitat in a similar way to his grandfather.

The two important threads of this story, the love and support of Dylan’s grandad and the beauty and importance of wildlife and its protection weave together in a manner that links them to Dylan’s depression and anxiety skilfully and sensitively. I also enjoyed the inclusion of the sense of community and belonging that Dylan found in the local choir, another aspect of life that I, perhaps stereotypically, associate with Wales. This is a lovely story told with great care and Gill Lewis manages to convey difficult themes including grief and loss in a gently accessible manner.

The Valley of Lost Secrets by Lesley Parr

The Valley of Lost Secrets is an evacuee story with a difference. This beautifully told, tender story of two young brothers, a mystery, and a community that holds secrets of its own captivated me from the opening scenes to its satisfying conclusion.

It is September 1939 and twelve year old Jimmy and his little brother Ronnie are evacuated from London to a small Welsh mining village of Llanbryn. It could not be more different to the life the two boys know. They have become outsiders and despite the care he receives from the couple who take them in for Jimmy in particular this is difficult. Then he discovers a skull hidden in a tree and frightened by what this means Jimmy needs a friend to share his secret with and to solve the mystery. Help comes from an unlikely source and gradually Jimmy uncovers secrets from the past that will change his attitude and his understanding of what home, family and belonging truly mean.

The knowledge and love of communities such as the village of Llanbryn is evident in the writing. There is beauty in the landscape of looming mountains and the valley in which the village rests. This is a community where everyone knows each other with all the advantages and disadvantages that this brings. The adult characters are not mere stereotypes or pushed to the background, these are well rounded, intriguing flesh and blood people. Gwen and Alun, the couple with whom the boys are living stayed with me just as much as the boys after I finished reading.

There are moments of heartbreak but these are balanced with the feelings of love, hope and the importance of brotherhood throughout the story. There is much to think about in this kind and perceptive book.

Welsh Fairy Tales Myths & Legends by Claire Fayers

Welsh Fairy Tales, Myths and Legends is written in a modern accessible style appropriate for young readers and Claire Fayers has given each tale her own twist. There are stories of dragons, love, rivalry, monsters and fairy folk that would be good to read aloud and this collection is an excellent introduction to Welsh folklore.

Many of these stories were new to me and I liked the personal introduction to each one that provided a taste of what to expect and gave a little background which would be helpful for children too. There is a true storytelling style to this which gives even the newer stories a traditional feel. However there is also a modern air to some of the dialogue and touches of humour that made me smile and would add to the enjoyment for young readers. Many of the stories included references to Welsh landscape and history and this provides an opening into further reading of linked stories or information books.

Among the selection are tales from the Mabinogion, Arthurian legend, fairy tales, Welsh Romani and modern stories. Many are set in real places and this encourages the reader to browse a map alongside the collection learning about the country as you travel around through folklore, magic and mysteries. Clare Fayers has also provided a guide to Welsh pronunciation and Welsh names which I found myself referring back to often so a welcome and useful addition. This collection is fresh and appealing to young readers but retains a sense of the traditional storytelling and history of Welsh culture that gives it a wide appeal.

10 Stories From Welsh History that everyone should know by Ifan Morgan Jones illustrated by Telor Gwyn

This appealing exploration of Welsh history includes stories of adventure and rebellion, tyranny and freedom, tragedy and joy all presented in an immensely readable style and accompanied by engaging illustrations. This is history brought to life in a entertaining mix of narrative non-fiction, timelines, fact boxes, maps and illustration; a wonderful package! I learned a great deal from this book and have no doubt that it would be useful in schools.

The ten stories range from Gwenllian’s battle against the Normans up to devolution and the birth of the Welsh Parliament. Each section begins with a story told by the person and is followed by a double page spread of information. The events and people include not only warriors and campaigners but ordinary people also, including Eileen Beasley who campaigned for her rates bill to be written in Welsh. The collection is diverse and there is mention of Wales’ involvement in the slave trade and the Cardiff race riots in 1919. The Aberfan tragedy is included and its aftermath plus mention of other mining disasters. This is a comprehensive book, attractively presented and with an accessibility that ensures a wide readership.

The section at the end of the book includes a glossary, a timeline and a fascinating selection of maps of the country of Wales through the ages. 10 Stories From Welsh History is one of those children’s factual books that encourages curiosity and further learning.

Four very different books but all of them highlighting aspects of Welsh history, geography and culture plus an insight into the sense of community and belonging that is so important. I don’t envy the judges their task and am looking forward to finding out which book is selected on Friday. Good luck to everyone involved!

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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. It’s been another busy week so I hope you find something among this selection of links and reviews that is helpful to you.

What I’m reading…

Last week I mentioned an excellent debut that I had just finish reading and I have now reviewed The Map of Leaves by Yarrow Townsend for Just Imagine. This original and thoughtful story will, I think, attract a lot of attention as it taps in to our concerns about our natural world. An exciting adventure filled with danger and drama yet with a thoughtful sensitivity running through it. I really liked this book and love how reviewing for Just Imagine introduces me to authors new to me.

Needle, Patrice Lawrence’s latest YA novel for Barrington Stoke is a compelling and unforgettable read and is a book that I read in one sitting. The distinctive and at times heart breaking narration of the story by the main character, Charlene, is unforgettable and I would highly recommend this book for teens to secondary school librarians and teachers. The book deals with the subjects of children in care and our justice system and would be excellent for prompting conversation and further reading on the themes.

There has been a wide range of picture books published over the last couple of months and this week I managed to finally do a round up of some of my favourites. My Pick of the New Picture Books includes kindness across the generations, challenging gender stereotypes, the journey our food makes and a welcome re-issue.

News, articles and resources…

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’.

Mat Tobin’s Klaus Flugge Prize Presentation – Oxford Brookes University Senior Lecturer Mat Tobin has generously created a fascinating presentation of all 24 picture books long listed for this year’s Klaus Flugge Prize. This contains insights into a page from each book, links to illustrator and author websites and additional information. This is a labour of love that would be great to share in schools and libraries.

Ten terrific comics and graphic novels for children – Neill Cameron believes that there’s a comic out there for everyone – from reluctant readers to bookworms. Here he chooses his 10 favourites for Book Trust.

A Tale Never Loses in the Telling – this is a thoughtful article by librarian Roy Moss for Just Imagine containing some interesting perspectives on storytelling for National Share a Story Month organised by the Federation of Children’s Book Groups.

Reading for Pleasure Conference: the thread that connects – this conference, postponed from 2020, will help you enrich your repertoire of children’s texts and create reading communities that connect and support young readers. Author Frank Cottrell Boyce and Norfolk Children’s Book Centre bookshop will both be there on Saturday 18th June in Cambridge. Tickets cost £30 and can be booked via the link above.

Yoto Carnegie Greenaway Awards Live Event Series – the organisers of these book awards together with the Reading Agency are hosting two virtual shortlist events for young readers. There’s one event to celebrate each medal featuring a selection of the shortlisted illustrators and authors talking about their books, as well as answering questions from children and young people, ahead of the winner announcement on 16 June. The events take place this month and are one hour long. Full details plus links to register are available above.

Dolly Parton’s Imagination Library to give books to refugee children – Dolly Parton’s global organisation is partnering with publisher Penguin Random Houseand charity Give a Book to offer books to 200 refugee children in London. Among the books chosen are old and new favourites such as Where is the Very Hungry Caterpillar? by Eric Carle, King Jack and the Dragon by Peter Bently and Billy and the Dragon by Nadia Shireen.

Barnes Children’s Literature Festival Line-up Announced – this year’s festival takes place over the weekend 25th-26th June and the brilliant line-up has recently been announced. It includes Frank Cottrell Boyce, Piers Torday, Lauren Child, Emma Carroll, Sharna Jackson and many more. You can find out more and sign up for the newsletter via the link.

Empathy Day 2022 – activity and curriculum ideas – teachers and Empathy Book Collection Judges, Jon Biddle and Richard Charlesworth have written this excellent article for Teachwire on how to embed empathy across the curriculum. It includes book suggestions and links to Empathy Day resources.

Love My Books Newsletter May 2022 – this is an excellent resource for the families and schools. This month’s newsletter includes the current Book in Focus: Clean Up! by Nathan Bryon and Dapo Adeola, a family review of How War Changed Rondo, by Romana Romanyshyn and Andriy Lesiv, Oksana Lushchevska and new activity ideas for books such as Rigatoni the Pasta Cat Michael Rosen, illustrated by Tony Ross. The website is well worth a browse and if you haven’t signed up for the newsletter that’s a good idea too!

Shortlist Announced for the Alligator’s Mouth Award 2022 – Five books have been shortlisted for The Alligator’s Mouth Award 2022, which champions both authors and illustrators of highly illustrated children’s fiction. This year the award is also working with Fun Kids, the UK’s only National radio station for 6-12 years old, and Coram Beanstalk, the national reading charity, to run a special competition giving school libraries a chance to win the longlisted titles. Find out more about the competition and see the shortlisted books via the link.

While the Storm Rages by Phil Earle Free Virtual Event for Schools – to celebrate the launch of Phil Earle’s new book on 8th June this event taking place at 1.30 includes Phil talking about his new book and the award winning, When the Sky Falls and answering questions too. Not to be missed!

Puffin Virtual Visits – Real-life authors and illustrators will be beaming straight into classrooms around the country this term, to inspire a lifelong love of reading for pupils. Over the coming weeks these include Sam Copeland, Jenny Pearson and Sharna Jackson. Thank you to Jon Biddle for making me aware of these.

Indie Book Awards Shortlists Announced – The Indie Book Awards, chosen by independent booksellers have four categories to choose from – Fiction, Non-Fiction, Children’s Fiction and Picture Book – so there’s something for everyone.

Choosing Books for your Year Group – a series of free Webinars hosted by Nikki Gamble with guest teachers and librarians, live streaming on Facebook starting with Year 1 Monday 16th May at 4.15. Sure to be helpful with lots of excellent books shared and recommended

Censorship and Intellectual Freedom in School Libraries – Joint statement from the Chartered Institute of Library and Information Professionals (CILIP), the CILIP School Libraries Group (CILIP SLG) and the School Library Association (SLA). This statement issued on 13th May is intended to provide clear guidance for school librarians, school leadership and Governors when considering issues relating to intellectual freedom and censorship.

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

You Can’t Let an Elephant Drive a Racing Car by Patricia Cleveland -Peck illustrated by David Tazzyman – the latest offering in this funny, entertaining and popular series sounds an absolute joy. Jo Cummins hosted the author on her blog this week and I loved seeing her favourite illustrations from this new book.

Maddy Yip’s Guide to Holidays by Sue Cheung – the latest in this humorous series for readers aged 7+ written and illustrated by Sue Cheung is a book of the month on LoveReading4Kids and sounds as though it would be a great summer holiday read.

The Lost Girl King by Catherine Doyle – “If you like your stories steeped in mythology, infused with a unique sense of place and written in the language which transports you to another realm, then add The Lost Girl King to your summer shopping list!” says Veronica Price in her excellent review of this new stand alone title from award winning author Catherine Doyle due out in July. I’ve shuffled my proof copy up my TBR pile thanks to Veronica’s comments.

The Secret Garden on 81st Street by Ivy Noelle Weir and Amber Padilla – fabulous review of this new graphic novel by the team who brought us Meg, Jo, Beth and Amy. The review could be summed up by saying Daisy May Johnson, author of How to Be Brave, loved it very much! But if you want a little more Daisy says, “I loved how unafraid Weir and Padilla were of the original text and how lovingly they made it speak to a whole new audience. That’s what you do with a classic. That’s it, right there.” This sounds great.

That’s everything for this week and I hope you have a happy weekend. I have just started reading Read Between the Lines the new one by Malcolm Duffy and hope to find time to read more. The latest issue of Pen & inc, the interesting magazine from CILIP, arrived yesterday so I may squeeze that in too. Happy reading!

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Pick of the New Picture Books

Kindness across the generations, challenging stereotypes, the journey our food makes and a welcome re-issue, just some of the picture books I have enjoyed over recent weeks.

Many families will have experience of elderly relatives developing dementia and may also have witnessed how friendship across the generations can provide both comfort and encouragement. Phyllis and Grace written with understanding by Nigel Gray and tenderly illustrated by Bethan Welby is a touching and sensitive portrayal of such a situation. Little Grace and her parents live next to an old lady named Phyllis who lives alone and whose memory is failing. The family keep an eye on Phyllis, doing small DIY jobs and sending meals around to her. But it is Grace that becomes her special friend. As the story progresses Phyllis’s memory and ability to cope deteriorate but the friendship deepens. I loved this gentle, moving and empathetic picture book; it captures so well the confusion of an elderly person in this situation but also the care they still are able to show for others. This would be an excellent way to introduce the topic of dementia and also depicts the importance of community and understanding of others in difficult situations. Published by Scallywag Press on 7th April.

The cover of I am NOT a Prince written by Rachael Davis and illustrated by Beatrix Hatcher is bold and eye catching and sets the tone for this alternative version of a fairy tale that challenges stereotypes. The rhyming text is fun to read aloud but conveys a serious and important message. Hopp the little frog knows that he is different but finds it impossible to explain to others quite how he feels. This book is a lovely way of allowing children to see that it is important to be true to yourself and is presented in a kind and appropriate way. It promotes inclusivity in a positive manner and would be a good discussion prompt for slightly older children. The bold, vibrant graphic style illustrations are great including details of the story for children to notice as they listen or read and the whole book has a joyful feel to it. Published by Hachette Press in paperback 26th May.


Picture books can be a wonderful way of introducing young children to narrative non-fiction and Shelly Hen Lays Eggs written by Deborah Chancellor and illustrated by Julia Groves is an excellent example. This is the latest in a series showing children where there food comes from and is presented in the same simple and stylish way as the previous books. We accompany a little boy as he follows the life of Shelly Hen as she searches for food, finds a shady place to have a nap and eventually lays a beautiful, brown egg ready to be eaten for tea. Incorporating a trail for children to follow matching words and additional facts about ‘happy hens’ this encourages children understand the work that goes into producing food and become environmentally aware. An excellent book for Early Years settings published by Scallywag Press on 7th April.

The Most Beautiful Child by William Papas was first published in 1973 and this welcome re-issue in paperback will bring it to a new audience. This story has a charm and a subtle humour to it that is extremely appealing as is its thoughtful and kindly message about the dangers of vanity and pride. Mr Peacock asks Mrs Owl to take his child’s lunch to school and kind Mrs Owl agrees. How will she recognise his child she asks? Just look for the most beautiful child there replies Mr Peacock. There follows a lesson in the power of a parent’s love as Mrs Owl can find no child more beautiful than her own! The glorious illustrations of all the birds in the school are lovely and provide a way into bird identification and naming too. A cheerful and thoughtful tale published by Pikku Publishing on 7th April.

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Needle by Patrice Lawrence

Needle, Patrice Lawrence’s latest YA novel for Barrington Stoke is a compelling and unforgettable read exploring the issues and difficulties faced by young people growing up in care. A short but profoundly affecting novella this is a book to read in one sitting and talk about at length.

Cover artwork by Andy Gellenberg

Fifteen year old Charlene has lived in foster homes since the death of her mother and has been separated from her younger sister, Kandi, since then too. Grief stricken and angry Charlene comforts herself by knitting, the counting and concentration calming her troubled thoughts. She is knitting a special dinosaur blanket for Kandi, a true labour of love, every stitch made with care and thoughts of the sister she so wants to be reunited with.

Moved from home to home as things don’t work out Charlene is now living with her foster mother, Annie, who is understanding and supportive. However Annie’s son who is usually away at university resents Charlene’s presence and when on a trip home he taunts her and destroys the blanket which means so much to her Charlene explodes with the anger she can not control and finds herself in police custody. The odds are now stacked firmly against her and her future looks bleak.

Told in a first person narrative Charlene’s voice has a powerful intensity coupled with a heartbreaking neediness hidden beneath the surface which is utterly compelling. Needle is a book that I opened standing in the kitchen, wandered to a chair to read further and did not look up until I had finished. The writing makes you care and want things to be better for Charlene. There were times when I felt frustration at some of the choices she made, however when you look at her back story her choices are understandable. She has lost the security she craved and her life feels out of control. The characterisation is excellent, both of the young people involved and the adults making the decisions on their behalf.

This would be an excellent book to use from Year 8 upward to provoke conversations and thoughtful discussion about our criminal justice system, social care and society’s expectations and attitudes.

Barrington Stoke have ensured that this book is accessible to a wide range of readers and is presented in a dyslexia friendly format. Although suitable in content for aged teens it has been edited to a reading age of 8. Perfect for readers who struggle a little but also a quick read and engaging read for more confident teens too.

I should like to thank the publishers for my proof copy. Needle was published on 5th May and is available to purchase on the Barrington Stoke website.

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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. There have been awards announcements, details of forthcoming events, helpful book lists and reviews you may have missed so I hope this selection of links is helpful.

What I’m reading…

One of my favourite recent reads was published on Thursday this week, Seed by Caryl Lewis. As promised in the last Reading Matters my review is now up on the Just Imagine website. I can wholeheartedly recommend this, it’s a delight and a fabulous book to read aloud to children in Upper KS2, encouraging children to believe in themselves, to be kind and to have hope in the future.

Another book I read and reviewed for Just Imagine is Major and Mynah by Karen Owen and Louise Forshaw. This is great fun and is both inclusive and accessible in content and presentation and would be great for lower KS2. Both this story and Seed feature protagonists who wear hearing aids or cochlear implants and in both cases this aspect is described with sensitivity and positivity.

Regular readers of the blog will know I enjoy historical fiction and this week I was pleased to be able to take part in the blog tour marking the publication of Claire Mulligan’s English debut, The Hunt for David Berman. If you are looking for a new children’s book set during the Second World War I can recommend this one.

I have just finished reading The Map of Leaves by Yarrow Townsend, a beautifully atmospheric and original debut that truly does give nature a voice. My review for Just Imagine will be available next week but this is definitely one to look out for. So many great books being published at the moment!

News, articles and resources…

Children’s and teens roundup – the best new picture books and novels – I missed this last week and in case you missed it too I have included it in this week’s collection. Imogen Russell Williams’ excellent selections in the Guardian are always worth browsing as they are wide ranging in age appeal and content.

Children’s author Simon James Green: ‘I just wanted to show LGBT+ kids that it’s not all doom and gloom’ – in this article Simon James Green discusses why young LGBT+ people need representation more than ever.

The Reader Teacher May 2022 Books I’m Most Excited About – each month Scott Evans compiles a ‘coming soon’ video highlighting his most eagerly anticipated books. I’m delighted to see Seed and The Hunt for David Berman included and like the sound of Fake by Ele Fountain and Peter Bunzl’s new book, Magicborn.

National Share a Story Month Book Lists – National Share-A-Story Month is an annual celebration of the power of storytelling and story sharing, providing a fantastic opportunity to fulfil the core aim of the Federation of Children’s Book Groups of bringing children and stories together. This year’s theme in belonging and you can found out more and see the helpful book lists compiled on this year’s theme on the official website above.

Neil Gaiman: The Books of My Life – author Neil Gaiman interviewed in the Guardian on the books that have influenced him. I found his comments about “these lovely friendly asides to the reader” in the Narnia books interesting as it is something I have noticed during my recent re-reads and wonder if I was aware of it as a child. He also mentions Nicholas Stuart Gray, an author I don’t know of so must now investigate.

The 2022 Little Rebels Award Shortlist – now in its 10th year the Little Rebels Award celebrates radical fiction for readers aged 0-12. The award is given by the Alliance of Radical Booksellers and was established in conjunction with Letterbox Library. This year’s shortlist includes titles that tackle complex social issues and makes them accessible for the youngest of readers.

CLiPPA The CLPE Poetry Award Shortlist Announced: The Centre for Literacy in Primary Education this week announced the shortlist for the UK’s leading award for published poetry for children. The list illustrates the diverse energies of children’s poetry and a new confidence amongst publishers and poets. It is possible for schools to register for the excellent Shadowing Scheme via the website. You can found out more about the books on the shortlist, the judges, the shadowing scheme and forthcoming events linked to the award via the link above.

The 2022 Empathy Conversation 25th May 7.00 – 8.15pm – In the lead-up to Empathy Day 2022 (9th June), Empathy Lab invite you to join them for a thought-provoking debate about empathy, our human superpower. The panel of leading authors includes Lemn Sissay, Katherine Rundell, Manjeet Mann. They will be joined by Professor Robin Banerjee, Head of Psychology at Sussex University. The event will be hosted on Zoom. Register for your FREE tickets via Eventbrite through the link above.

Book Trust New Books We Love for May – Every month, BookTrust review dozens of books for children and teenagers. The ones they like best in May are suitable for toddlers to teens and are divided into age categories as a rough guide to suitability although of course there will be an overlap.

The Sunday Times Sports Awards – the shortlists for these awards, in several categories, were announced this week. The titles on the Children’s Book of the Year in association with The Reading Agency include Marcus Rashford’s You Are a Champion and Run Like a Girl by Danielle Brown. You can see the full list plus details of the other categories via the link above.

YALC – the UK’s Young Adult Literature Convention – YALC returns 8th – 10th July bringing you a 3 day celebration of the very best in young adult books and authors. YALC has fast become a popular event bringing together fantastic authors, publishers and readers for three packed days of YA events, writing workshops, book signings, book-themed activities and more.

Books for the Classroom Free Webinars – In May and June, Nikki Gamble is joined by teacher and librarian guests for a series of webinars looking at the principles of book selection for different year groups. There will of course be plenty of new book suggestions too. The first one, CHOOSING BOOKS FOR YEAR 1 with special guest Sam Keeley on Monday 16th May 4.15 – 5.00 can be booked via the link above, and the second on Tuesday 17th May 4.15 – 5.00 CHOOSING BOOKS FOR YEAR 2 with special guest Kiran Satti can be booked here.

The Young Quills Shortlist 2022 – The Historical Association announced the shortlist for the Young Quills, the annual awards for children’s and young adult historical fiction this week. There are three age categories, 5-9yeaes, 10-13 years and 14+. The Young Quills books for each year must be published for the first time in English in the year preceding the competition and this year’s selection is brilliant. I’m delighted to see Tom Palmer, Phil Earle, Hilary McKay and Lesley Parr included and am keen to read all the other books too.

 

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

A Perfect Spot by Isabelle Simler – I love the look of this beautiful picture book and Paul Watson’s helpful review includes a glimpse of the stunning illustrations and advice on how to use the book in the classroom.

The Station Cat by Stephen Hogtun – another beautiful picture book this time reviewed by Tom Griffiths. The blurb describes it as “ a story of hope” and Tom says “The Station Cat is a story of kindness and hope, underpinned by connection and the power we have in sharing with others.” I’m finding this one hard to resist.

Middle Grade Spring Collection – this is a really helpful round up of reviews of recent fiction from Kate Heap. Her selection includes mystery, social issues, humour and time travel so something for a range of tastes here.

Super Questers: The Case of the Stolen Sun by Lisa Moss and Dr. Thomas Bernard illus. by Amy Wilcox – this new series of interactive, STEM related books is the sort of thing I know would be popular in school libraries. They are the type of books that encourage children to share and talk about what they’re reading. This helpful blog post includes Jo Cummins’ look at the first of the series and an interview with the authors and founders of a new children’s publishers.

That’s everything for this week and I hope it’s been useful to you. I’m hoping to tackle my enormous pile of books to review this weekend in between doing battle with the garden. Happy reading!

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Blog Tour: The Hunt for David Berman by Claire Mulligan

The Hunt for David Berman, a debut by Claire Mulligan is an adventure set during World War 2 with a touching bond between two boys from very different families at the centre of its exploration of how war affects families. Although a story set in the past it is a compelling and relevant one with which today’s young readers will empathise.

In Britain Robert, like many children in 1940, has been evacuated from his home in London and is now staying with his grandparents in Scotland while his father is away fighting in the army and his mother working on an important and secret job with the Wrens. Meanwhile in Berlin at the Gestapo headquarters there is concern that an Enigma code book has gone missing and has been hidden in a suitcase. Children have been fleeing Berlin to escape the Nazis carrying with them one small suitcase each. Back in Scotland whilst Robert is exploring the caves on the beach near his grandparents’ farm he discovers a boy hiding in them. David, dirty bedraggled and hungry, is a Kindertransport child fleeing his cruel foster parents. These story threads twine together in an exciting and at times extremely moving adventure as the two boys cope with David’s predicament, news from the front and the appearance of a sinister stranger.

Robert and David are wonderful characters about whom young readers will quickly care and their friendship is at the centre of this story full of rich historical detail and suspense. The assured writing style ensures this has a feel of wartime classics enjoyed by children for many years and the gradual reveal of information, the dual settings and use of flashback will ensure young readers want to read on to find out what happens. There is intrigue, family relationships, loss and courage running through this page turner giving it more layers and depth of meaning. A story with an added poignancy as almost unbelievably Europe once again witnesses children fleeing to safety from war.

This is ultimately a story of hope and the power of friendship, loyalty and helpful kindness to make even the darkest times better. Highly recommended for young readers who enjoy books by Emma Carroll or the historical novels by Tom Palmer.

Guest Post by Claire Mulligan Author of The Hunt for David Berman

In the novel the main character, David, has arrived in Britain from Germany as a Kindertransport child during WW2. Here Claire talks about the important research she did into this movement and how it inspired her writing.

When I started writing The Hunt for David Berman I did quite a lot of general reading around the subject of World War 2 as I wanted the details in the book to be as authentic as possible. When I made the character of David into a Kindertransport child I was brought into a moment in history that was only for a short period of time – from late 1938 to 1940 – but one which had a profound impact on the lives saved and the families who were left behind.

Approximately 10,000 children were saved through the Kindertransport movement – a rescue effort to remove as many predominantly Jewish children from Nazi Germany and German-occupied territories as possible. In the wider context of the war where one and a half million Jewish children perished, 10,000 may not seem to be a huge number but for every life saved future generations got a chance to live. As I read about the Kindertransport I came across many heartbreaking accounts from the children who had to leave parents, siblings and loved ones behind, and in many cases they were the only members of their family to survive the Holocaust. The organisations and agencies responsible had to fund the Kindertransport operation themselves in order that the children were not a financial burden to Britain. Children chosen to travel were from a variety of backgrounds and circumstances – some had been in concentration camps, or were in danger of arrest or deportation, others were orphans.

Children eligible to travel were under the age of 17 and were unaccompanied by adults. They travelled mainly by train with only one piece of luggage and were not allowed to take anything valuable with them. I came across one fantastic story of a child who was determined to bring her stamp collection with her. This would not have been allowed as stamps could be valuable and could be sold on. But she managed to put every single stamp into her officially sealed suitcase and get them to England with her. That delighted me so much I put it into the book and in it David smuggles his beloved stamp collection out of Berlin.

In the book David brings photographs of his family, a notebook to keep as a diary and a stuffed toy bear. These are some of the things that Kindertransport children brought with them, along with practical items like clothing and shoes. Everything had to be packed into a suitcase that a child could manage to carry themselves. The children wore identity labels around their necks with a number on them and the same number was pasted on to their luggage.

Once the children had arrived in England many faced the added difficulty of not being able to speak English. In the book David’s father had taught him a little English but he had to learn the language quickly. Even after reaching the relative safety of England life was difficult for the Kindertransport children. Some of them did not have foster families to come and collect them immediately on arrival and many went to Dovercourt Refugee Camp where they stayed until they were placed with adoptive families. They had to learn to be adaptable – settle into new families, learn a new language, make friends, become accustomed to different customs and foods, all while struggling to retain their own identities and not knowing what had happened to their parents and loved ones back home. In the book David shows himself to be resilient and resourceful, just as the Kindertransport children had to be.

Many of them had left believing that they would see their parents again soon or that they would be reunited after the war. Sadly most children of the Kindertransport who had travelled so far by train, boat and plane never saw their parents again.

There is a real danger that as time marches on the stories of these children will slowly fade. Yet the Kindertransport movement was an act of complete faith – the faith of parents who puttheir children on to trains hoping that the arms of strangers would open to receive them, faith that the hand of war would not touch them, faith that they would be safe in another country. I hope the children who read The Hunt for David Berman understand something of the Kindertransport and the difficulties faced by children during the war, but ultimately I wantthe message to be one of kindness and friendship.

Indeed, in the book David’s immediate future is tied to his friend Robert, someone who has tried to help in so many ways. David, finally, has a chance of a safe place to live with support and friendship from people who value him and we can imagine David feeling ‘at home’ in Robert’s family. One of the joys of writing fiction is being allowed some artistic licence and granting a happy ending!

I hope the book will spark discussion around difficult subjects such as war, The Holocaust, anti-Semitism, refugees (in the past and present day), and how we choose to treat one another. Initially Robert is quick to judge David when he finds out that he’s German – he can’t believe he is friends with the ‘enemy’ but then when he understands a little more about David’s life he realises that he and David are very much alike and he shows himself to be a trusted and loyal friend. I hope that the reader will see that friendship and kindness are so important for all of us and that even small acts of generosity can make a huge difference.

The Hunt for David Berman by Claire Mulligan is published by The Moth today, 5 th May 2022, £8.99 paperback

Thank you very much to Claire for this interesting and thoughtful article. If you have missed any of the previous posts on this tour I can recommend catching up with them and full details are given below.

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Reading Matters – children’s book news

Welcome to the first of my weekly round ups of children’s book news of the Summer Term. I hope you had a good Easter break and were able to enjoy some of the lovely sunshine. Since the last Reading Matters I have enjoyed a couple of days at the Federation of Children’s Book Groups Annual Conference at Woldingham School in Surrey. A packed programme of events and the chance to meet up with online book buddies in real life for the first time in what feels like forever to me. It was a real treat and a big thank you to the organisers for creating such an enjoyable event.

What I’m reading…

With immaculate timing I received a copy of Tom Palmer’s new book, Resist, the day before the FCBG conference in which Tom was taking part. On the Sunday evening I stayed up late to finish reading it. It is a remarkable and moving story, meticulously researched and relevant today. I tried to do justice to it in my review and would highly recommend getting hold of a copy when it is published in August.

Another brilliant book that I enjoyed reading over the last few weeks is Seed by Caryl Lewis. This has a feel of a modern fable and is so full of wisdom, kindness and hope that I think everyone, children and adults, would gain something from it. My review for Just Imagine will be available to read nearer the publication date of 12th May so I’ll share it next week.

Retuning to historical fiction I also read a great debut by Claire Mulligan, The Hunt for David Berman, a story set during the Second World War featuring spies, the Kinder-transport, family relationships and a friendship between two boys with very different backgrounds. I am pleased to be participating in the blog tour to mark its publication on 5th May and would recommend catching up with the tour which features some interesting guest posts from the author.

Years ago I used to search desperately for football themed books for my sons and this month I read and reviewed a couple of great new children’s books for football fans from Barrington Stoke that would have been just right. Over the last few days I’ve been re-reading The Horse and His Boy by C S Lewis prompted by Chris Lovegrove’s Narniathon21 on his blog. This is the book from the series that I had probably the least vivid memories of from childhood but even in the first few chapters I recognised lines and passages from all those years ago. I find it fascinating how those books we read as a child stay lodged in our minds even when we don’t realise their lasting impact.

News, articles and resources…

David McKee obituary – the much loved creator of Elmer the Patchwork Elephant and Mr Benn died at the age of 87 at the beginning of April. His books have been shared by parents, grandparents and in schools for as long as I can remember. This is a lovely obituary by Julia Eccleshare expressing why his work is so popular.

Open University Reading Schools Programme 2022-2023 – free briefing 4 May – it’s not too late to sign up for this event. Hosted by Teresa Cremin and suitable for school leaders in primary, junior and infants schools. The OU’s year-long Reading Schools Programme will enable you to build a rich reading culture and curricula that will impact on children’s life chances.

Nikki Gamble’s Book Blast for April 2022 – if you missed this event live it’s now available to watch via YouTube. A blast through some of the best books published in April. This video is organised into chapters so you can find the sections that interest you, or watch over a number of sessions.

The Reading Agency’s April Booklist for Children and Young People: Autism – the Reading Agency have worked with Autistic Uk on the creation of this list of books for children and young people written predominantly by autistic authors and representing a diverse range of experiences, stories and voices. The list can be downloaded via the link above.

Jhalak Children’s & Young Adult Prize – shortlists announced – The shortlists for this year’s Jhalak Prizes, the nation’s premier awards for British and British-resident writers of colour, have now been revealed. The winners will be announced on Thursday 26 May. You can see both the shortlists and the long lists via the link above.

How school leaders can get the most out of their libraries – an article by Elizabeth Hutchison for TES highlighting the many benefits of a thriving school library for the school community and the role of SLT in ensuring that this happens.

Windrush Learning Resource for Schools – Seven Stories (the National Centre for Children’s Books) has put together a new Windrush learning resource which highlights the contributions of Caribbean and British Caribbean writers to British children’s literature. The resource features John Agard, Grace Nichols, Valerie Bloom and Grace Hallworth .

CLPE An Evening with Michael Rosen – to open the celebrations for its 50th anniversary CLPE is hosting an evening with Michael Rosen. Michael has just published What is a Bong Tree?, a collection of his articles written and talks given over the last five decades and will be performing some of his poems. A ‘real life’ event taking place in London.

Books for Topics Updated Year Group Book Lists – these updated lists include more graphic novels, some hot-off-the-press new titles, a few more dyslexia friendly books, more laugh-out-loud choices in upper KS2 and some brand new high-interest non-fiction. Well worth a browse for ideas.

Non-Fiction or Not Non-Fiction – that is the Question… by Mini Grey – this is a great guest post by Mini Grey on the Picture Book Den blog. It prompts questions about the labels we apply to books and provides an insight in to the creation of her new book, The Greatest Show on Earth. Which, incidentally, is now on my shopping list. I also really like Mini’s favourite ‘non-fiction’ picture books.

The Branford Boase Award Shortlist Announced – this is another fantastic shortlist from the organisers of this award which recognises both new talent and the role of the editor. From a longlist of 24, the judges have chosen eight to shortlist, making this the longest shortlist in the award’s history. As ever, the subject matter is very broad and there are books for readers aged 7 to 17: family dramas, fantasy adventure, science fiction and anarchic comedy. More information about the shortlist and the award itself is available on the official website linked above.

Tom Palmer Poster Pack – the ever helpful Tom Palmer has made a special pack of posters, bookmarks and signed material linked to his historical fiction available to schools. You can sign up to receive this via the link above.

Jackie Morris Talks About Mrs Noah’s Song – I love this sneaky glimpse of the new book due out in June from Jackie Morris and James Mayhew. Mrs Noah is one of my favourite picture book characters and I think this video is one and a half soothing minutes of gentleness.

CILIP Famous Faces Posters – Author, naturalist and conservationist Dara McAnulty has given his support for libraries by joining the CILIP Famous Faces Campaign. This campaign poster is free to download and display in your library along with previous posters via the link.

The Meaning of Life(stories) Roy James Blog for Just Imagine – I’m very much enjoying Roy’s regular blog posts for Just Imagine and this one about biographies for children is fascinating and gave me a great deal to think about. Nikki Gamble thought so too and her own reflection on the subject added as a postscript is equally interesting.

The Reader Teacher April Must Reads – another tempting selection from Scott Evans this month including Mini Grey’s The Greatest Show on Earth mentioned in the non-fiction post above. There is a free poster to display available to download too.

The School Library Association Member Meet-up: Primary Schools – this event takes place on Thursday 12th May from 3.30pm – 4.30pm and is free for SLA members. Whatever your primary school library space looks like and whatever your role this is an opportunity to meet other members online to share ideas, challenges and successes.

Longlist Announced for 2022 SLA Information Book Award (IBA) – Now in its twelfth year, the IBA aims to emphasise the importance of non-fiction by highlighting and celebrating the high standard of children’s information books. The awards are divided into three age categories, judged by a panel of educators. Children will then also have the opportunity to vote for their favourites in each group, as well as their favourite overall, to determine four additional Children’s Choice winners. You can see the books listed in each of the three categories via the link.

Finally, some book reviews that caught my eye recently…

Don’t Ask the Dragon by Lemm Sissay illustrated by Greg Stobbs – Rachael at Picture Book Perfect has hosted a fascinating interview with Greg Stobbs alongside her review of this new picture book. This is well worth a read as it provides an insight into the collaborative nature of creating picture books and a lovely look at the early drafts of the illustrations.

The Boy who Grew a Tree by Polly Ho-Yen; illustrated by Sojung Kim-McCarthy – another wonderful review by Ben Harris. The themes of this book, caring for our environment and each other, are important ones and as Ben says “I am just so pleased to read a short novel of this quality and thoughtfulness aimed at the younger junior age-range.” He has also included some excellent prompts to encourage children to think and talk about the story.

Atlas of Amazing Architecture: The most incredible buildings you’ve (probably) never heard of by Peter Allen – this is a brilliant and detailed review by Jo Bowers for Just Imagine. It provides information about content, use, audience suitability and much more and the book itself sounds excellent. Probably perfect for primary school libraries.

If You Read This – Kereen Getten – although not published until September this sounds like a book to make a note of for the future. Although it covers the subject matter of grief and loss this description by Karen in her review made me smile, “At 192 pages, If You Read Me is short but perfectly formed”

The Good Turn by Sharna Jackson – this contemporary mystery published next month sounds great. Veronica Price’s review reveals just enough to whet our appetite without giving too much away. Veronica says, “I utterly applaud Sharna Jackson for engaging readers, young and old, with a compelling and captivating narrative which delivers such a powerful message, prompting us all to look beyond our privilege and ally ourselves with those who need a voice.

That’s everything for this week and I hope something here has been helpful to you. The bank holiday weekend should give us all a chance to relax and catch up on some reading. I hope so anyway! Happy bank holiday weekend and ‘see’ you next Saturday.

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