Blog Tour: 100 IDEAS For Primary Teachers: Reading for Pleasure by Scott Evans

Practical, accessible and brimming with enthusiasm, 100 IDEAS for Primary Teachers: Reading for Pleasure will help teachers implement some innovative suggestions in their own classroom and nurture a reading community in their school. A deceptively slim book that could make a big difference.

Many years ago as a school librarian at a meeting with parents I said that teachers taught children ‘how to read’ and that my role as a librarian was to teach them ‘how to be a reader’. Those roles, I think, have now become less distinct in the primary sector due to the increased focus on the importance of reading for pleasure and the rise in the number of teachers who are now ‘Reading Teachers’. This new book shines a light on some wonderful examples of how this works in practice, providing its readers with the tools they need to replicate this in their own schools.

Scott Evans has gathered together a selection of tried and tested ideas, advice and suggestions that teachers can use to create a reading for pleasure culture in their classroom, school and wider community. Perhaps even more importantly they will also help sustain that culture. A big plus of this guide is the concise and clear presentation of the subject. The book is divided into 11 parts, each part focusing on a particular aspect such as, Creating a Reading Classroom, Being a Reading Teacher, Understanding Text Types, Love Your Libraries and Participating With Parents and Families. Within each part are individual ideas each having a relatable quote, a summary and a step by step guide to implementing the suggestion. There are also teaching tips, and ideas on how to expand on the activities incorporated plus bonus ideas. This comprehensive approach enables teachers to use as much or as little as they need from the suggestions and to select ideas suitable for their own school.

Scott Evans makes it clear from the introduction onwards that Reading for Pleasure should not be an add-on to the curriculum but integral to teaching. His knowledge and enthusiasm will inspire his readers and his practical advice will enable them. This excellent guide is perfect for teachers at any stage of their career and also suitable for school librarians who could adapt many suggestions for use in the school library. Despite the title this book would also be useful to secondary teachers too. An excellent resource and highly recommended.

100 IDEAS for Primary Teachers: Reading for Pleasure is published on 30th March by Bloomsbury Education. You can follow Scott Evans on Twitter @MrEPrimary and his helpful website can be found here. I should like to thank Enisha Samra and Bloomsbury Education for my review copy and for inviting me to participate in the blog tour.

You can follow the rest of the blog tour organised to coincide with publication over the next few days and full details can be found below.

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FCBG Children’s Book Award Blog Tour: While the Storm Rages by Phil Earle

Welcome to my stop on the Children’s Book Award Blog Tour! 

Today I am delighted to share a blog from Phil Earle all about his shortlisted title While The Storm Rages.

First a little information about the award itself.

The Children’s Book Award is the only national award for children’s books that is voted for entirely by children. It is owned and coordinated by the Federation of Children’s Book Groups and is highly respected by teachers, parents and librarians. It has brought acclaim and strong sales to past winners such as J.K. Rowling, Patrick Ness, Andy Stanton, Malorie Blackman, Anthony Horowitz and Michael Morpurgo, who has won a record four times. The award has often been the first to recognise the future stars of children’s fiction and has the ability to turn popular authors into bestsellers.

Who will win? Children nationwide are now invited to vote for their favourite of the ten shortlisted books. The deadline for online voting is 12 noon on Friday 12th May.  The category winners and the author of the best children’s book published in the 2022 nomination period will be announced at a glittering awards ceremony which takes place in Central London on Saturday 10th June, and will be live-streamed.

Vote online here –

Now over to Phil Earle who has kindly written this guest piece about While The Storm Rages.

History can be unbelievably harsh, packed with horrors and unbelievable cruelty. So should we leave it where it is, or should we show it for what it is, in the hope that we never make the same mistake again?

As soon as I read about the great animal massacre of 1939, I knew I had to write about it: to try and make sense of it, if nothing else. Imagine the scene, it’s September 1939, and your father has just marched off to war. Before he leaves, you make him a promise: to behave, to not give your mum any lip, and above all else, to look after his beloved dog, Winn. You wouldn’t refuse, would you? Imagine two weeks later then that a government booklet drops on your doorstep, telling you to have your animal put to sleep. That due to the incoming bombs and destruction, this is the safest and kindest thing to do. Many, many people faced this dilemma when ‘Air Raid Precaution For Animals’ dropped onto their doormat. Many people panicked. Who can blame them? And as a result of that booklet, 750,000 innocent animals saw their lives ended in just 30 days. That’s twice as many pets killed as British soldiers in the entirety of the war.

When I first read this, I thought it must have been made up, the ultimate shaggy dog story. But it wasn’t, and when I realised this, I knew there was a story for me to tell. The only question I needed to ask was: what if? What if, when the booklet was delivered, the boy whose dad had marched off to fight, said no? What if he kept his promise and kept the dog safe, no matter what.

I loved Noah as soon as he popped into my head. He’s not like me. He’s braver for starters. He acts in the moment, driven by his overwhelming impulses. He loves his dog, and he loves his dad (he IS more like me in this regard) and though he is hugely reckless, he is overwhelmingly pure in his every intention. None of what he does is for himself. It’s for those he adores and because he needs to keep his promise. I hope that Noah’s journey is an entertaining one to follow. I hope it leaves you breathless by the end. I love reading books like that, so it’s wonderful to have it recognised by this brilliant shortlisting. To be on a shortlist where every vote is cast by children is a bit special. So thank you. And happy reading.

Thank you, Phil. I loved Noah too! This is the last post in the blog tour to mark the announcement of the Children’s Book Award shortlists and if you missed any of the previous posts you can see where to find them in this graphic below. Thank you to the Federation of Children’s Book Groups and particularly Erin Hamilton for their help in preparing this post.

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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 over the last few days.

What I’m reading…

Regular readers will know how highly I rate the publishers Barrington Stoke for all they do to encourage reading for pleasure for every single child. This week I read and reviewed a selection of new titles published by them recently, all suitable for the primary age group. The stories include humour and finding your special talent, family, loss & friendship, ponies & adventure, history & mystery. There is something included here for every possible taste! I have another couple of new Barrington Stoke books for secondary age readers which I hope to read soon.

I also read and reviewed a selection of picture books this week that I think will be useful to have in schools. New Picture Books Helping Children and Families would be helpful for teachers and librarians also as they deal with subjects and situations that may cause worry and well chosen books can be enormously useful in providing reassurance and for prompting conversation.

Can You Get Rainbows in Space? by Dr. Sheila Kanani vibrantly illustrated by Liz Kay is an inviting non-fiction title just right for curious children and budding scientists. It is full of information and perfect for both browsing and learning. The enticing introduction encourages children to read on and then the information is divided into the colours of the rainbow, each section explains how we see that particular colour, and explores nature linked to it. It’s a clever presentation and one that is littered with the kind of facts which appeal to children such as What Colour is a Polar Bear Under Its Fur? Why Are Frogs Green? and What Came First: Orange or THE Orange? Published this week by Puffin Books and a must buy for primary school libraries. It would make a great present too.

This week I also read The Silver Chain by Jion Sheibani, a verse novel about mental health and the healing power of music which I found a compelling and thought provoking book. The format of this story in differing styles of poetry and accompanying illustrations incorporating musical symbols is both original and affecting. I can well understand why this was long listed for the Carnegie and hope to write my review for Just Imagine over the coming days and will share it next week.

News, articles and resources…

Poetry can move souls and thrum hearts: why wouldn’t we teach our children about it?: Joseph Coelho – following the recent publication of a report from the Centre for Literacy in Primary Education and Macmillan Children’s Books this article by our Children’s Laureate is full of positivity about the teaching of poetry in schools and includes links to his Poetry Prompts initiative with Book Trust and other related activities.

If you want children to read, let them read what they love! – excellent article by SF Said in his capacity as Writer in Residence for Book Trust in which he stresses the importance of choice in encouraging reading for pleasure. “Because choice is such a vital part of being a reader; an autonomous, lifelong reader, of the kind we want all kids to be...”

Taking a look behind What the World Doesn’t See by Mel Darbon – Tracy Darnton – a couple of weeks ago I reviewed What the World Doesn’t See by Mel Darbon, a book that will undoubtedly be among my top reads of the year, and this interview on An Awfully Big Blog Adventure explains a little more about the background to this story, its inspiration, personal relevance and its importance.

Talking About Representation: Reading Diversity in the Primary Curriculum with Atinuke – Hays Education, in collaboration with partners All Around Reading, are hosting a FREE online Author-led CPD event which will take place on Thursday 30th March from 4.30-6pm. Join respected author Atinuke, who later this year will be publishing Brilliant Black British History. The session will cover: An update on CLPE Reflecting Realities research and The Lit in Colour research, The author’s perspective and how Brilliant Black British History came to be written, Resource suggestions and How to support inclusive education in schools.

Do You Know What’s In Your Child’s School Library? – a downloadable infographic from the ever helpful Lucas Maxwell. This is a great resource highlighting the many roles of the school library and great to share with parents.

Reading for pleasure: Sustaining and developing your school’s reading culture – article by Prof. Teresa Cremin for Headteacher Uodate magazine. This contains excellent advice on how to use the recent World Book Day focus as a launchpad to establishing a reading culture within a school community.

PaperBound Magazine Spring Issue – the latest issue of this free online magazine is packed full of author interviews, book recommendations, writing tips and more. Featuring Daisy May Johnson, Oisín McGann and Liz Flanagan.

Hay Festival Schools Programme – this year’s Programme for Schools takes place THURSDAY 25 MAY & FRIDAY 26 MAY, with in-person events for pupils in Key Stage 2 on Thursday 25 May and Key Stages 3 & 4 on Friday 26 May. All events will be livestreamed on the day and are free to watch again later on Hay Player(captioned in English and Welsh). You can buy books on site from the Hay Festival Shop. All events are approximately 45 minutes in duration. It’s a brilliant line up so do please explore what’s on via the link above.

The Yoto Carnegies Events Week – Scholastic are to be the official book supplier for the Yoto Carnegie Awards 2023 and are hosting a week of free virtual events celebrating this year’s shortlists starting on Monday 27th March. You can register and find out details of timings etc on the website above.

Waterstones Children’s Book Prize Winner 2023 The Cats We Meet Along the Way was this week announced as both the winner of the Books for Older Readers category and the Overall Winner of the Waterstones Children’s Book Prize 2023. You can read about the winners in each category, guest posts by the winning authors and the shortlisted books on the Waterstones website above.

Caboodle Classroom Launched – Caboodle is an online virtual platform, part of Authors Abroad, where top children’s authors, poets and illustrators come together so students anywhere in the world can be inspired about reading and writing. For each age category, from Early Years to aged 16, a new author event is released every month during term time and the sessions are available to view for two months. Teaching Notes provided by CLPE are supplied with every author visit. You can find out about the various subscription packages available and watch a video taster in the link above.

Books For Keeps March Issue – for many years this has been one of my favourite sources of information about children’s books as it’s also full of useful articles, interviews and reviews. This latest issue includes a guest editorial by Mary-Rose Grieve, co-chair of the Great School Libraries campaign, a feature by Nicholas Tucker about the late Marcus Sedgwick and regular features such as Beyond the Secret Garden.

CLPE’s February’s New Books Round-Up by their librarian Phoebe Demeger – Each month CLPE’s Librarian, Phoebe Demeger, reveals some of her favourite books she has recently added to the CLPE Literacy Library. These are divided into categories from Early Years Foundation Stage to KS3.

Where The River Takes Us by Lesley Parr Educational Resource Pack – last week I mentioned how much I enjoyed this novel set in 1970s Wales written by Lesley Parr and this week I noticed that Bloomsbury have published these excellent resources created by Scott Evans, The Reader Teacher. Free to download.

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

Moon’s Ramadan by Natasha Khan Kazi – this new beautifully illustrated picturebook depicts a journey of celebration around the world introducing Ramadan to young children, It explains events & traditions & the role that the moon plays in determining when Eid celebrations can begin. Catherine Friess on her Story Snug blog says, “It’s a fabulous book to read in an Early Years / Key Stage classroom to raise children’s awareness of the rituals and the significance of Ramadan.”

That’s Mathematics Based on Lyrics By Tom Lehrer, Chris Smith Illustrated by Elīna Brasliņa – I am lucky enough to have a copy of this brilliant book and think that Jo Cummins has summed up its appeal in her review which was part of the blog tour to mark its publication. “A great way to encourage children to think differently about maths and pick up plenty of mathematical vocabulary whilst having lots of fun.

Super Questers: The Case of the Missing Memory by Lisa Moss and Dr. Thomas Bernard; illustrated Amy Willcox – this insightful and fascinating review by Ben Harris gives a flavour of the book itself and also the reasons for its appeal. Perfect for puzzlers and would be coders. Ben says, “I’m so glad a series like this exists today, that treats young children with the respect they deserve in the field of programming: coding is only complicated when we have our ‘grown up glasses’ on; kids massively enjoy it and they succeed as a result.”

The Way of The Dog by Zana Fraillon illustrated by Sean Buckingham – Nicki Cleveland has completely sold this book to me in her lovely review, “Scruffity will long live on the bookshelf in my heart.” The guest article by Zana Fraillon is a thoughtful and interesting read too.

That’s everything for this week and I hope something here is helpful to you. On Monday I’m participating in the blog tour highlighting the Top Ten reads on the shortlists for the FCBG’s Children’s Book Award. You can see full details of the blog tour below.

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New Picture Books – Helping Families and Children

Sometimes emotions can be conveyed more easily through picture books, especially those created for younger children. There are times too when they can be invaluable for helping to explain a situation a child may not understand or need some reassurance in order to learn how to cope with it. These three recently published books do all of this well.

Two Places To Call Home by Phil Earle illustrated by Jess Rose

The bright and cheerful cover of Two Places to Call Home sets the tone for this positive and uplifting book about a little girl learning to adapt to living in two different houses, one with Dad and another with Mum, and discovering that both places can be ‘home’. Phil Earle writes with a kind understanding of the reality of separation and divorce ensuring the story acts as a wise guide to children reading or listening.

Florrie loves her Dad and her Mum and she knows that they both love her too. What Florrie finds hard is leaving one parent behind when she goes to visit the other. Her sensible parents give the little girl something to take with her to each home, a special stone from Dad’s and a magic flower on a necklace from Mum’s. Armed with this reassurance Florrie discovers that she is brave enough to manage this new situation and the story depicts her playing, using her imagination and, importantly, sharing her happiness with both parents.

This delightful story would do a great deal to reassure an anxious child in a similar situation that even when a family doesn’t live under the same roof they are still a family. Two Places to Call Home would be an excellent book for a school staff collection, for school libraries and Early Years settings. Phil Earle wrote this insightful article about the reasons for writing this book which you may find interesting. Two Places to Call Home was published on 16th February by Ladybird Books.

When I’m Gone by Marguerite McLaren illustrated by Hayley Wells

This profoundly moving picture book was written by Marguerite McLaren in response to her own situation and will help children learn how to cope with bereavement and grief. She has managed to find the right words to convey her message beautifully yet it is hard to find the right words to review this tender and gentle book.

The endpapers depict happy photos of precious family memories of a new baby’s arrival, holidays, Christmas, outings and family gatherings. There is love in these warm tinted pictures and this warmth and love is evident in Hayley Wells’ illustrations throughout. The book is a love letter to the author’s children, wise, kind and tender urging her children to live their own lives full of joy and adventure but also reassuring them that her love for them will endure. In writing When I’m Gone Marguerite McLaren hopes that it will help her own children and others in similar situations. This book also lets children know that their own emotions and reactions are normal, be they angry, confused or sad. An utterly lovely book, both heartbreakingly sad and life affirming at the same time.

The book ends with expert advice from the charity Child Bereavement UK and their website address. When I’m Gone was published on 9th March by Ladybird Books.

My Momma Zo by Kelly and Zoey Allen illustrated by Tara O’Brien

This vibrantly illustrated picture book shows how a family support each other through a time of change and also conveys how families can come in all shapes and sizes.

Told by little Molly she describes how she lives with her brother George and her two mums: Mommy Kel and Momma Zo. Molly lists their likes and dislikes, their similarities and their differences. Through Molly’s narration we learn that Momma Zo used to be called Daddy and was frequently unhappy and reluctant to join in family fun. Molly then goes on to describe how happy Momma Zo is now. The text and illustrations show the family with their pet dog and enjoying spending time together. There is mention of how some people can be unkind but the emphasis throughout is on the strength of the family bond and the love they share, “no matter what.” A sensitively written and thoughtful book.

Zoey Allen wrote a guest piece on the importance of representation on the My Book Corner blog to coincide with publication of this book and you can read it here. My Momma Zo was published on 2nd March by Uclan Publishing.

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New Books for Children From Barrington Stoke

The team at Barrington Stoke have been busy and there has been a flurry of new titles published recently or due out very soon. I have gathered together a selection here all suitable for the primary age group but different in style and content to appeal to a variety of tastes.

Sheep School by Ross Montgomery illustrated by Marisa Morea

Although he has written several other books for Barrington Stoke this is Ross Montgomery’s first Little Gem, a series perfectly put together for younger readers aged 5+ in a chunky format with a well designed layout. Ross Montgomery recently wrote about the appeal of funny books and their importance to young readers for Barrington Stoke and in his latest title for this publisher he certainly proves he knows how to make readers giggle. I know I’m not the target audience but this brightened up my day no end!

William the lamb is not exactly a model pupil. He loves to dance and sing and unfortunately is not able to stop himself doing so in the middle of the classroom. This does not go down well with Miss Bleater his teacher. All the other little lambs are being taught to ‘stand still’ but William is physically incapable of doing so. In the end William is expelled from school and cast out of the flock to the shame of his parents. However all is not lost as William witnesses the sheep being captured by the Big Bad Wolf. Can William, resplendent in his rainbow wellies, come to the rescue!

This laugh out loud story does contain a thoughtful message about celebrating those who are different rather than forcing them to conform and also of maximising on your talents. The illustrations are entertaining and allow the eagle eyed young reader to be aware of possible plot twists before they happen. A happy tale and one that will definitely encourage new readers.

Budgie by Joseph Coelho illustrated by David Barrow

Another new title in the Little Gems series and very different in tone to Sheep School, Budgie is a gentle story of family, loss and love told, as one would expect from poet Joseph Coelho, in a beautiful lyrical style. This is an early reader with depth in the story and kindness and understanding in its style. The tender illustrations by David Barrow complement the story perfectly and add another level to the emotional impact.

Miles lives in a flat in a city tower block and loves to climb the nearby trees with his friend Chris. Mr Buxton an elderly neighbour, always appears to be cross and grumpy and shouts at the boys chasing them away. One day when his friend is away on holiday Miles discovers a lost little budgie which he takes home to look after with the help of his mum and his little sister Mary. It is through his new pet that Miles discovers more about Mr Buxton and gradually learns lessons about acceptance, understanding and grief.

This sounds like heavy content for young readers but the subjects are so beautifully conveyed that this book is quite uplifting in tone. With subtlety both author and illustrator combine to show how first impressions may not always be correct and that people are more alike than different in many ways. The loving bond between the family and the blossoming friendship following initial misgivings is depicted with care. This is a beautiful story and one, I think, that would repay sharing with an adult due to the ideas and conversations that it may prompt.

Meg and Merlin: Running Away by Tanya Landman illustrated by Sònia Albert

The third instalment in this popular series by award winning author Tanya Landman is an action packed adventure just perfect for pony loving readers. When Meg’s mum agrees that she may meet up with her new friend Sam Houseman and go for a long picnic ride together Meg is thrilled at the thought of this idea. Everything goes as well as Meg has dreamed until on the way home she takes a wrong turn and things go badly wrong.

There is a lot of excitement in this story which will keep young readers involved until the end and Tanya Landman also conveys the strong bond between the young rider and her pony. Meg has to learn how to cope in a difficult situation and it should be encouraging for children to witness this achievement. Even if young readers never have to control a runaway pony! I would like to mention that the depiction of Meg calmly working out what to do at one stage in the plot is helpful to children and one they may remember. It is a nice touch to include a recap of the story so far so that children new to the series will be able to enjoy reading this book without having read the previous books in the series however I feel sure this has a growing army of regular readers. Produced in an accessible style and with lively illustrations through this has been edited to a reading age of 7.

The Curio Collectors by Eloise Williams illustrated by Anna Shepeta

The Curio Collectors entwines family, history and adventure in a charming story with engaging characters and a satisfying conclusion. Eloise Williams has a bewitching writing style, drawing you in slowly and gently and then building tension and drama as the story unfolds into a historical mystery complete with dastardly villain.

Cover illustration by Anna Shepeta

Lily and Tom travel the country with Ma Hawker in their caravan entertaining crowds with tales about their collection of curios. When by chance the two youngster acquire a strange piece of scrimshaw it attracts the attention of a young girl who is looking for a special shell that belonged to her mother. Lily and Tom then join with their new friend to solve the mystery and to avoid the sinister gentleman who will stop at nothing to obtain the shell for his own ends. With subtle references to feminism and honesty this is a captivating mystery which has the feel of a big adventure told in a short and accessible format accompanied by lovely illustrations throughout. Suitable for readers aged 9+ with a reading age of 8.

I should like to thank Barrington Stoke for my review copies and you can purchase these books on their official 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. A personal highlight for me was attending the launch of Where the River Takes us by Lesley Parr on Monday. It was a treat to see some old friends and familiar faces after far too long and to meet new people too. Thank you to Lesley and Bloomsbury for a really happy evening.

Last week I shared details of the latest report and news from the Great School Libraries campaign and omitted one very important item. The petition! Here is a link if you would like to add your voice to this appeal to make a school library statutory in every school. It could make a difference so do please sign if you can. Thank you.

There is some important award news this week with both the Yoto Carnegies and the British Book Awards shortlists announced plus the Jhalak Prize long lists. I was also delighted to listen to discussion about the awards and current children’s books on BBC Radio this week.

What I’m reading…

Last weekend I enjoyed reading Where the River Takes Us by Lesley Parr. This story set in the 1970s has all the elements of the best children’s books over the years. It is full of excitement, drama, friendship, pitch perfect dialogue, families and humour but most of all warmth, kindness and hope. All the main characters felt believable to me and feature relatable traits with which children will identify. Jason himself is an appealing protagonist and the manner in which his friends support him as he deals with grief, which at times becomes overwhelming for him, is touching. Set against the backdrop of the three day week, miners strikes and power cuts the themes have a relevance today too. An exciting read but one with a great deal of understanding at its heart and a real sense of the importance of community. Where the River Takes Us was published this week by Bloomsbury and, I think, is definitely one to watch.

This week saw the publication of research carried out by the Centre for Literacy in Primary Education (CLPE) and Macmillan Children’s Books learning about the place of poetry in primary schools. (See news item below) Among the findings was the observation that 88% of the teachers questioned say that children enjoy engaging with poetry however 79% of classroom book corners have fewer than ten poetry books in their book selection. A Passing On Of Shells by Simon Lamb would be a welcome addition to any classroom book corner.

Fifty poems of fifty words each on subjects ranging from family to nature, offering hope and humour, wisdom and insight are gathered together in this clever debut collection. A Passing On Of Shells would be wonderful for use in schools and with its embossed hardback cover and stunning illustrations by former Children’s Laureate Chris Riddell it would also be a special gift to treasure. 

News, articles and resources…

An Evening with Shini Somara – What on Earth Books & Just Imagine invite you to an evening with Shini Somara in discussion with host Nikki Gamble to launch Engineers Making a Difference. This free event takes place on Tuesday 21st March 7-8pm and is for adults but children may watch with you.

Launch of The Big Amazing Poetry Project to address findings from new research – if you read articles in the main stream media this week about this recent research report you may have found them disheartening reading. However this article provides a more constructive view. CLPE have announced The Big Amazing Poetry Project, which has been set up together with Macmillan Children’s Books to address new findings from this recent research into Poetry teaching and learning in primary schools. The Project looks to embed poetry fully both into classrooms and also in children’s choices when reading for pleasure. You can also read the key findings of the research and download the full report if you wish to.

James launches children’s fiction podcast – Anna James is launching a new podcast exploring how children’s fiction has affected writers and creatives. Available across all major podcast platforms, the first season features eight episodes which will be released weekly on Wednesdays from 12th April. Each episode features Anna in conversation with an author about their favourite children’s or YA book. For series one, the guests will include Katherine Rundell discussing Charmed Life by Diana Wynne Jones; Gabrielle Zevin on A Little Princess by Frances Hodgson Burnett and Laura Dockrill on The Story of Tracy Beaker by Jacqueline Wilson.

Book Clubs in Schools Summer Book Club – Summer Book Club is an engaging 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 The Chime Seekers by Ross Montgomery and Walker Books is supporting this initiative by providing the e-book for 99p (from 12/7/23 to 17/8/23) and giving schools the opportunity to buy sets of books at a discounted price of £4. Book Clubs in Schools provided a range of free resources linked to the book for you to share. Registration and full details are available on the website above.

Open University Reading for Pleasure: OU Newsletter Live! February 2023 – if you missed this event (it clashed with Shrove Tuesday) you can now watch the recording. Hosted by Professor Teresa Cremin, this virtual event covered a range of useful topics to help participants enrich their practice and nurture pupils’ love of reading.

The Jhalak Prize Children’s and YA Longlist Announced – First awarded in March 2017, the Jhalak Prize and its new sister award Jhalak Children’s & YA Prize founded in 2020, seek to celebrate books by British/British resident BAME writers. There are some great books on other list and the shortlist will be announced on 18 April with the winner being revealed on 25 May.

BBC Sounds Front Row 14 March – if you missed Bex Lindsay, presenter on Fun Kids Radio on Tuesday evening you can catch up now. She gives a round-up of some of the most interesting and engaging new releases for young independent readers and her section starts about 17minutes into the programme. It’s wonderful to hear children’s fiction being championed on an national arts programme. Well done, Bex!

The Radio 2 Book Club with Zoe Ball – This is another radio programme highlighting the importance of both children’s books and our public libraries. Zoe Ball talks to librarian Janet Noble about her 28 year career, and the books she is loving at the moment. They discuss Jacqueline Wilson and Sabine Adeyinka, whose book ‘Jummy At The River School’ is a new favourite. This year, Janet is also the Head Judge of the Yoto Carnegie Awards – which celebrate children’s authors and illustrators.

How does reading benefit children? – A new interactive resource published this week by BookTrust sets out the extensive and wide-ranging benefits that reading can bring children, in a simple and accessible way. The benefits of reading are broken down into four core themes setting out how children who read are more likely to: Overcome disadvantage caused by inequalities, Be healthier and happier children with better mental wellbeing and self-esteem, Do better at school and make more progress across the curriculum, Develop creativity and empathy. An excellent resource with links to extensive research.

The Power of Funny Fiction by Jenny Pearson and Ross Montgomery – Barrington Stoke value and publish all kinds of books. In this guest blog post, which I missed in January, bestselling authors Jenny Pearson and Ross Montgomery talk about the power of funny books and what humour means to them.

The Yoto Carnegies Shortlists Announced – The Yoto Carnegies celebrate outstanding achievement in children’s writing and illustration and are judged by children’s and youth librarians, with the respective Shadowers’ Choice Medals voted for by children and young people. 13 books have been shortlisted in total; seven for the Carnegie Medal for Writing and six for the Carnegie Medal for Illustration. Both lists and more information about both the books and the awards can be found on the official website above. You can promote these books in schools via the shadowing scheme and there are a fantastic range of resources available here.

The British Book Awards: Book of the Year Shortlists – With 72 titles across 12 categories, this year’s shortlists for this award, known as The Nibbies, are worth browsing. Congratulations to David Fickling Books who have Tyger by SF Said illustrated by Dave McKean on the shortlist for Children’s Fiction and Bunny Vs Monkey: Rise of the Maniacal Badger by Jamie Smart on the Children’s Illustrated shortlist.

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

Monsters in Trucks by Laura Baker & Nina Dzyvulska – it was the vibrant cover that drew my attention to this new picture book for very young children. Having now read Catherine Friess’ review on her Story Snug blog I think this would be a great picture book for use in Early Years settings and at home too with lots to look at and discuss.

Art and Joy – Best Friends For Ever by Danielle Krysa – this new picture book designed to inspire and encourage young artists would be a valuable addition to primary school libraries and classrooms. Jo Cummins reviews the book and also hosts a piece by the book’s creator Danielle Krysa on ‘Silencing Your Inner Critic’. This aspect of the book adds to its value I think and I will be looking out for this.

Engineers Making a Difference by Dr Shini Somara – following on from the online event with Dr Somara mentioned above Kate Heap reviews her new book and says it, “is perfect for every Key Stage Two class and school library. It is a must-have for secondary schools – in the library, with the careers lead and accessible for students to explore.

Onyeka and the Rise of the Rebels by Tolá Okogwu – this sequel to Onyeka and the Academy of the Sun is available now and judging by Tom Griffiths’ positive review will be just as popular at its predecessor. With another book in the series due to be published next year fans of superhero fiction are in for a treat.

That’s everything for this week. Happy reading.

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A Passing On Of Shells by Simon Lamb illustrated by Chris Riddell

Fifty poems of fifty words each on subjects ranging from family to nature, offering hope and humour, wisdom and insight are gathered together in this clever debut collection. A Passing On Of Shells would be wonderful for use in schools and with its embossed hardback cover and stunning illustrations by former Children’s Laureate Chris Riddell it would also be a special gift to treasure.

This week saw the publication of research carried out by the Centre for Literacy in Primary Education (CLPE) and Macmillan Children’s Books learning about the place of poetry in primary schools. Among the findings was the observation that 88% of the teachers questioned say that children enjoy engaging with poetry however 79% of classroom book corners have fewer than ten poetry books in their book selection. A Passing On Of Shells would be a welcome addition to any classroom book corner.

The book opens aptly with a poem titled How to Start an Adventure and Simon Lamb then guides his readers through a series of poems about the writing process itself, a wry look at families and relationships, quiet observations about nature, funny poems and thoughtful poems about everyday life and growing up. There is a lovely balance of styles which gives this book an added appeal and invites children to have a go at writing their own. You Make Me So ACROSTIC made me smile as it will many teachers reading it I imagine. I particularly liked Still Earth which reminded me of quiet country walks, “ Just air and light and calm and earth. And in the absence of the words; birds.”

Chris Riddell’s interpretations of each poem are wonderful, as one would expect, and add an extra dimension to the reading experience. The Three Legged Race, a thought provoking exploration of team work, is accompanied by Riddell’s illustrations of a tortoise and a hare. I loved this reworking of the familiar and it is one that may well prompt children to think about this much loved fable in a different way too. Links such as these can be found throughout Simon Lamb’s ingenious collection and ensures that this book will be revisited often by both children and adults.

A Passing on of Shells was published in February by Scallywag Press to mark the launch of their new poetry list, Scallywag Poetry and with further collections by other poets and illustrators planned we have much to look forward to. I should like to thank Scallywag Press and Laura Smythe for providing my review copy.

If you would like to find out more about the poet Simon Lamb you may like to watch this video below created by Scallywag Press.

If you are looking for other books to add to your poetry collection I can also recommend When Poems Fall From the Sky by Zaro Weil illustrated by Junli Song and for slightly older readers For Every One by Jason Reynolds.

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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.

One important event this week was the launch of part 2 of the Great School Libraries campaign. The latest research highlights the inequality of school library provision around the country and the reduction in the number of school libraries in the last few years. This week’s launch at the House of Commons drew attention to these worrying figures and set out the campaign’s vision to government and school leaders. There is a link to the full report in the news section below. We need a school library in every school for every child. Please do support this vital campaign! You can find out how to help here and follow on Twitter.

What I’m reading…

It took me a few days to collect my thoughts after I finished reading What The World Doesn’t See by Mel Darbon and to write a review that I felt did justice to this special book. It is, I think, a profoundly moving novel written with love and understanding by an author who has given a voice to those who have been under represented in books for children and teens up to now. In this story Mel Darbon offers an insight into life for those with a learning disability and for those who love and care for someone who has one. An utterly absorbing read and one that will make a difference.

Moonflight by Gill Lewis illustrated by Pippa Curnick is an epic adventure, appealing characters, secrets and betrayal, legends and curses, stories and lies all bind together in this exciting adventure full of danger and bravery. Gill Lewis has created a fantasy world that asks questions of our own and encourages children to seek out the truth and recognise what really matters in their lives. Although I have a life long fear of rats Gill has also converted me thanks to the wonderful siblings, Tilbury and Nimble Quick Twitch-Whiskers!

News, articles and resources…

Caroline Sanderson talks to Katherine Rundell – an interesting article in Mslexia in which Caroline Sanderson interviews the award winning novelist, literature academic and playwright about why she champions children’s fiction and her passion for John Donne’s poetry. One comment in particular stood out for me, “it’s to children’s fiction that you must turn if you want to feel awe and hunger and longing for justice.’ Thank you to Veronica Price for flagging up this article.

Seven beautiful books that show the power of a ‘quiet story’ – Author Anna McQuinn, author of the Zeki series and Lulu series, talks about the need for gentle books that reflect what’s important to the youngest of readers. Anna’s books reflect these thoughts beautifully and if you have not already discovered them I can highly recommend both the Zeki and Lulu books for the youngest readers in your life.

The Guardian view on children’s reading: a gift that should be for all – an editorial piece in the Guardian highlighting the increased need for school libraries during the current cost of living crisis. This follows on from items I shared last week about the proposed closure of school libraries in Scotland and the recent research report published by the National Literacy Trust. And, of course, leads on to the next item…

Equal futures or an imbalance of opportunities? – the phase 2 report of the Great School Libraries campaign was launched at the House of Commons this week. The key findings are a vital read for anyone interested in the literacy of our children and their equal access to books for reading for pleasure and learning. Led by the CEO of CILIP, Nick Poole and Alison Tarrant, CEO of the SLA “The Great School Libraries campaign will continue to work to embed the role of school library staff in the educational landscape and ensure that all children in the UK can access the benefits of a great school library.” You can download the full report here.

Diverse Libraries webinar 2 – Every reader counts: developing inclusive reading provision and practice – the second in the Literacy Trust’s 2023 Diverse Libraries free webinar series focusing on inclusive reading provision and practice takes place online on 29th March 4 -5.15pm. This session will explore the importance of making provision for books and reading spaces that offer accessible and welcoming reading experiences for those who find reading especially challenging and those children who, for various reasons, have come to be reluctant to read.

Children’s Book Award Resources – the Federation of Children’s Book Groups last week shared the Top Ten shortlist for this award. They have now created some downloadable posters and also activity notes for each book that are designed to help you to engage your child or children with the books in a variety of ways, to encourage them to write reviews and to get them responding creatively. These would be helpful either in schools or libraries or at home.

Penguin Random House Children’s 2023 highlights – Penguin Random House Children’s 2023 Highlights Presentation took place on the 21st February, a virtual event showcasing the many books that this publisher is publishing over the coming year. You can download an event programme which includes information about the Highlights Presentation and the authors and illustrators featured within the video. The publishers have also created a showcase pack where you can find all of their top picks for 2023 listed by publication month. Both resources are available on their website linked above.

I Spy, Bletchley Park A Guest Blog for Just Imagine by Rhian Tracey – Rhian Tracey explains how as a child she interviewed her grandafthers about their wartime roles, but it was only as an adult that she realised that she did not know anything about the role played by her Nan. This led her to uncover family secrets and discover the codebreaking work undertaken by her Great Aunt Audrey. Now Rhian has written a novel inspired by Bletchley Park, Britain’s codebreaking centre, where her great aunt worked. This book is next up on my reading pile and I’m looking forward to reading it even more after Rhian’s insights.

In a world with over eight billion people, how different can we really be? Find out by reading the winner of the Royal Society Young People’s Book Prize 2022 – The winner of the Royal Society Young People’s Book Prize 2022, which was announced at an online award ceremony this week, is ‘If the world were 100 people’, by Jackie McCann and Aaron Cushley. Find out more about the winning book and the shortlist on the official website above.

Lucas Maxwell’s The Portable Magic Dispenser – this latest newsletter from school librarian Lucas includes information about a free Dungeons and Dragons game session online for absolute beginners. What the World Doesn’t See by Mel Darbon gets an enthusiastic mention too.

The Summer Reading Challenge theme is… Ready, Set, Read! with Youth Sport Trust – this week The Reading Agency announced that they have teamed up with the Youth Sport Trust for a Summer Reading Challenge focused on reading, sport and play. The Summer Reading Challenge shines a light on the power of public libraries as a hub for local communities and will bring together the benefits of sport, play and creativity. The Youth Sport Trust has developed family activity cards, which alongside the official 2023 Summer Reading Challenge book collection, will aim to keep imaginations moving over the school holiday.

Book Trust Book Buzz Registration Open – Bookbuzz is a reading programme from BookTrust that aims to help schools inspire a love of reading in 11 to 13-year-olds. Participating schools give their students the opportunity to choose their own book to take home and keep from a list of 16 titles. They are all carefully selected by a panel of experts to ensure quality, suitability and to encourage reading for pleasure.

Children’s and teens roundup – the best new chapter books – a wonderful selection chosen by Kitty Empire for the Guardian. The Rescue of Ravenwood is one of my highlights of the year so far and I have indulged myself with a copy of Lesley Parr’s new book, Where the River Takes Us which sounds right up my street.

World Book Day World of Stories Audiobooks– a reminder that there are a range of free audiobooks for different ages and reading abilities available on the World Book Day website until 26th March.

Nikki Gamble’s Book Blast for March – this is an excellent way to keep up to date with the best new books every month and there’s also a chance to win a bumper box of books for your school. March’s Book Blast will be released on Thursday 16th March at 8pm and this months box of books competition ends on 31st March. The best way to make sure you don’t miss it is by signing up to the YouTube page via the link above.

An evening with Helen Rutter – Scholastic & Just Imagine invite you to an evening Helen Rutter to celebrate the publication of The Funniest Boy in the World. This free online event takes place on Wednesday 15th March from 7-8pm and tickets can be booked via Eventbrite.

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

Namaste is a Greeting by Suma Subramaniam Illustrated by Sandhya Prabhat – a review by Lucy Timmons for Just Imagine that finishes with “This book is peaceful and vibrant, still and energised, busy and slow all at the same time. A bit like life. Such a beautiful resource for any classroom where mindfulness and well-being are a fundamental part of the culture of the classroom.” Doesn’t this picture book sound wonderful!

Wild Song By Candy Gourlay – Joy Court has a wealth of experience in reviewing books for children and young people and her description of this companion novel to Bone Talk is hard to resist! “This is a potent and powerful novel that is as unforgettable as it is beautifully and accessibly written. It deserves a place on every award list and to be put into the hands of as many readers of any age as you can!”

That’s everything for this week and I hope that you have found something helpful included in the links or a new book to tempt you. My weekend reading is going to be Where The River Takes Us by Lesley Parr. Happy reading.

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Moonflight by Gill Lewis illustrated by Pippa Curnick

An epic adventure, appealing characters, secrets and betrayal, legends and curses, stories and lies all bind together in this exciting adventure full of danger and bravery. Gill Lewis has created a fantasy world that asks questions of our own and encourages children to seek out the truth and recognise what really matters in their lives.

Cover illustration by Pippa Furnick

Award winning author Gill Lewis has displayed a skill in surprising her readers over the years. There is an unpredictability in her range of titles that does, I think, add to her appeal. However, a common thread does tend to be animals although a story featuring rats would be a test of her ability to engage this particular reader as I have a longstanding fear of them. As a child I loved Reepicheep, C S Lewis’s fearless little mouse in The Voyage of the Dawn Treader, and now alongside him I will place the hugely appealing Tilbury Twitch-Whiskers. Gill Lewis has converted me!

Tilbury Twitch-Whiskers is the seventh-born rat of the seventh-born litter and, according to tradition, this means he is a rat in want of adventure. He just doesn’t know it yet because his mother is so anxious that her beloved son should come to no harm that she is overprotective of her little ratling. Tilbury, with his ‘weak bones’ is confined to home and is consequently a timid little chap

Tilbury and his family live with the other Dockland Rats in London and the curse of a legendary diamond hangs heavy over them all. At an annual ceremony it becomes clear only Tilbury can break the curse and save ratkind from looming disaster. To carry out his destiny, this timid young rat must leave the comfort of home for the very first time. Tilbury’s quest takes him to new lands, where huge cats and unfamiliar rats rule the streets and skies. Tilbury must risk everything to return the cursed jewel to its rightful owner.

In many ways this story contains all the recognisable elements of a traditional quest adventure but it does have a slightly different feel. There are stories told within the story and the emphasis on recognising the truth and also of understanding that others’ version of a story may be different to your own has parallels in our current world situation. There are also episodes which include an exploration of the abuse of power, the effect of greed on a community and a look at the class system through the treatment of the Sand Rats. Tilbury’s sister Nimble Quick is a feminist through and through and her determination not to be sidelined made me smile. Tilbury’s developing bravery and wisdom is admirable and his enquiring mind and mechanical aptitude balance his fearful nature. I think young readers will warm to him. I grew fond of Marfaire the Keeper, the wise guide to the young rats on their journey too.

There is a fair amount of what can be be described as ‘mild peril’ and violence plus deaths that sensitive readers may need to be prepared for so perhaps this is a book to be shared with an adult for the lower age of the middle grade audience. For readers aged 10 upwards this would be an exciting read and also one that would work read aloud in the classroom with lots of interesting topics for discussion.

Both the cover and the internal illustrations by Pippa Furnick add to the world building by Gill Lewis bringing the setting and characters to life effectively. Moonflight was published on 3rd March by David Fickling Books and I should like to thank the publishers for my proof copy. You can purchase a copy online at

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What The World Doesn’t See by Mel Darbon

“I don’t ever remember seeing someone like Jake in a book or on TV – it’s as though people with learning disabilities don’t exist in public. The sadness of that overwhelms me. Jake’s been blanked out of life.”

Page 165 of What The World Doesn’t See by Mel Darbon

What The World Doesn’t See is a profoundly moving novel written with love and understanding by an author who has given a voice to those who have been under represented in books for children and teens up to now. In this story Mel Darbon offers an insight into life for those with a learning disability and for those who love and care for someone who has one. An utterly absorbing read and one that will make a difference.

Cover artwork by Adams Carvalho

Maudie and Jake’s dad has died and their once solid family unit is broken by grief. Their mum has fallen into depression and is struggling to cope, overwhelmed by the loss of her husband, the need to financially support the three of them and cater for Jake’s additional needs, one night she simply disappears. Her sister Emma initially steps in to help but she finds the situation impossible and arranges for Jake, who has a learning disability, to be put into foster care. Maudie is in despair. Her mum is not answering her texts, she is grief stricken from the death of her adored dad and now her beloved brother has been taken away from her. She takes matters into her own hands and kidnaps Jake and together brother and sister go on the run to Cornwall.

Told in a dual narrative between Jake and Maudie the voices of both characters are genuinely engaging bringing the story to life for the reader. Within pages one cares about both of these young people but it is Jake’s distinctive personality that stands out throughout the book. With her own personal family experience to draw on Mel Darbon ensures that Jake is a fully rounded character with a sense humour and a strong bond with his older sister. The two voices enable us to see both Maudie’s reaction to other people’s attitudes but more importantly we see how Jake feels when people are cruel or careless in their treatment of him. The story is a learning experience for both characters and readers. The warmth and love between the main characters is touching and there are many who offer the hand of friendship and support to them both and others who, through lack of experience, do not initially understand but make great efforts to do so.

Maudie and Jake and their strong and loving bond is at the centre of this compelling story however there are other characters who play an important role. The strong friendship between Maudie and her friend Liv, the kindly caravan site owner Brae, Gerren the local boy with whom Maudie tentatively begins a relationship and others who make fleeting appearances such as the cafe waitress, all give this tender story a kind and hopeful air. This optimism is conveyed to the reader so that the grief of this family is balanced by their love and ultimately their resilience.

This is a book that works both as a reading experience with great emotional impact but also as a story that encourages you to ask questions and to think about attitudes, differences, inclusion and representation. Mel Darbon pushes us to look beyond the labels and the stereotypes to people as individuals. March is Disability Awareness Month and What The World Doesn’t See will do a great deal to raise that awareness. Although the story and Mel’s Author Note about her beloved brother moved me to tears I am glad I read this beautiful book.

Thank you to Fritha Lindqvist and Usborne Books for my review copy. What The World Doesn’t See was published on 3rd March for readers aged 13+ and can be purchased online here.

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

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