Reading Matters – news from the world of children’s books


Welcome to the first edition of Reading Matters for the new academic year and I hope it has been a restful summer despite the fact that this has been such a different one for us all. This weekly recap of some of the news, reviews and articles that I have enjoyed or found useful first started as my 2020 New Year resolution and no one is more surprised than me to find myself still compiling them in September. However as, despite everything, there is still children’s book news aplenty and better still a book loving community to share it with here is the latest offering. After a long gap this is bit of a bumper issue, so perhaps settle down with a cuppa and explore!

What I’m reading and what I read over the summer…

One rather special highlight of the summer was the online course run by Nikki Gamble and the Just Imagine team, Exploring Children’s Literature, when for one session per week for six weeks we looked at different aspects including, fairy tales, poetry, well being, taboo subjects, nonfiction and humour. This will be taking place again next year and I can wholeheartedly recommend it. Put a reminder in your diaries now! I am currently reading Nikki’s excellent book which is both fascinating and informative.

I have read a variety of books over the last few weeks and have enjoyed them all for differing reasons. After the War by Tom Palmer was a book I read at the end of July and has stayed in my memory since. Beautiful, thoughtful and respectful this is an important story and suitable for Year 6 and older. Many others have sung the praises of this special book over the last few weeks and I would urge you to read this if you have not already done so.

Freedom we Sing by Amyra Leon and Molly Menoza is a beautiful, vibrant picture book to empower and start conversations, perfect for assemblies or class discussions on human rights.

Amongst the other books I have read and enjoyed is The Midnight Library by Matt Haig which I felt lived up to the prepublication hype. The Unwinding by Jackie Morris is a soothing, uplifting and beautiful book to dip in to as needed; reading can be the best medicine at times. Sequin and Stitch by Laura Dockrill and Sara Ogilvie is another thoughtful children’s book published by Barrington Stoke and My Name is River would be excellent for Years 5 and 6 and links perfectly to studying the Rainforest. Among the many books being published this week is The Key to Finding Jack by Eva Jozefkowicz which is a mystery with a difference and a story I very much enjoyed.

Resources and news…

Reading for Pleasure – Resources to Help Children Enjoy Books at Home – when schools temporarily closed in March I compiled a list of resources to help schools and families at that time. Many of these links will still, I think, be useful so I am including them here in case they will help over the coming weeks.

The Literacy Calendar 2020 – 2021 – this wonderful and extremely helpful resource created by Sadie Phillips (Literacy with Miss P) was included in the last Reading Matters but I’m mentioning it again as it is so useful when planning for the coming academic year. It includes a mixture of writing and reading competitions, events, days, weeks, festivals and shadowing schemes suitable for primary pupils. It is available to download in both PDF and Word formats.

Reading is Magic Festival – Have you seen the amazing line up of bestselling authors & illustrators for the Reading is Magic Festival? Six days of FREE digital events designed especially for schools takes place 27 Sep to 2 Oct. You can find out more and sign up at the link above and there is a list of all the fabulous events here.

Children’s books roundup – the best new picture books and novels – I always enjoy these round ups by Imogen Russell Williams for the Guardian and this selection is just as tempting as usual.

MMS Publishers – this link takes you to excellent site featuring catalogues for the coming year from the likes of Lantana Publishing, Alana Max Books, Milet Publishers and more. Thank you to Mat Tobin for making me aware of this site.

Read Me a Story in Year 6: Tips for Reading Aloud – the third in a series of blogposts by teacher Ben Harris this is an excellent and encouraging guide for teachers and school librarians giving advice on how to make reading aloud work for you and the children. Part one with suggestions for books to read aloud in Year 6 can be found here and part two here. A brilliant and generous resource.

Love My Books Newsletter – the latest newsletter for parents and educators from this excellent reading charity is packed with information & ideas including simple ways to support children’s reading, new activity pages based on great books & challenging racism through children’s books.

Branford Boase Award 2020 Zoom Winners Announcement – This special event on 9th September celebrates the announcement of the winners of the 2020 Branford Boase Award for author and editor of the outstanding debut novel for children and to celebrate twenty years of this unique award. This special webinar will feature a discussion with 2019 winning author Muhammad Khan and his editor Lucy Pearse, followed by the announcement of the winners of the 2020 Branford Boase Award and a chance to put questions to them. The event will run on Zoom and is free but make sure you register for the event via the link.

Reading groups and the enabling adult – this informative blogpost on the Just Imagine website explores ways in which teachers can support reading in your classroom through their own reading practice.

September is World Kid Lit Month – this month we celebrate and promote world literature for children. We have the chance to explore the world through books for children and teens. Where will you travel to by book? This helpful website includes links to books by country and information about translated texts.

Qatar Foundation Read Alouds – this would be lovely to link to the World Kid Lit initiative. QFI is releasing read-alouds of various children’s books, working with authors, publishers, and writers from across the Arab world.

Tata Storytime – although mentioned in Reading Matters earlier in the year a reminder as you may be interested in using this YouTube channel to link to World Kid Lit Month. Tata Storytime is a new online kids show where fantastic actors read beautiful picture books. With Authors from African, Caribbean & African American heritage these stories will engage your children. Aimed at Pre-school to 8 year olds,

Top 50 Illustrators Borrowed from Public Libraries – this detailed and informative article by illustrator and author Sarah McIntyre is a must read for anyone interested in children’s books. The power of illustration to nurture readers is apparent to anyone involved in this area and this in-depth look at the current position is both fascinating and important.

CILIP Announces the Key Dates for the 2021 Carnegie and Kate Greenaway Awards – The key dates for #CKG21 are announced here alongside news of revised judging criteria for the CILIP Kate Greenaway Medal similar to that adopted for the Carnegie following the consultation after the Diversity Review.

The Boy Who Grew Dragons by Andy Shephard Authorfy Masterclass – this latest master class from the fabulous Authorfy team is wonderful. ‘The Boy Who Grew Dragons’ is the perfect series for ages 7-9 and now you can discover where she got her inspiration from, how she plans her stories and more. It’s free to join Authorfy and they provide wonderful support and ideas for children, teachers and families.

First Issue of PaperBound Magazine – this looks great for use with secondary age pupils in particular. ‘A writing magazine for the young, and the young at heart. Our aim is to bring you useful writing advice, brilliant book recommendations, and get you writing creatively. Whether you are a young person, a parent, a teacher, librarian, someone who would like to write for young people or you just enjoy reading MG and YA fiction, we hope you find something useful within these pages.’

Why Sita Brahmachari wants you to discover the amazing history in your street – Sita Brahmachari’s new story When Secrets Set Sail is all about children discovering the hidden history of their home – and now she wants you to do the same. Read this article on the Book Trust website to find out more.

Mythical beasts roam the world of children’s books – a wonderful selection of new children’s books in this round up by James Lovegrove for the Financial Times.

Interview with Andre Reece, Editor of Books for Keeps – Books for Keeps has for many years been a magazine that have I found enormously helpful. Jake Hope’s interview with Andrea, editor since 2010 is lovely and an example of the positivity of children’s book enthusiasts. If you have not already discovered Books for Keeos I would highly recommend it.

Simon Smith’s Year 1 – Year 6 Picturebook Lists – last but most definitely not least I want to include these wonderful lists just in case there is anyone who has missed them. Fabulous books, old and new, compiled by a headteacher who loves them and loves sharing them.

Finally, some recent book reviews that caught my eye…

It is impossible to list all the fabulous books that have been published over the summer, particularly as this week has seen a surge of titles but these are just a few for a range of ages and tastes that may tempt.

Superheroes Don’t Get Scared…Or Do They? – by Kate Thompson, illustrated by Clare Elsom – as children all return to school with many of them having been exposed to worries and uncertainty in recent months this sounds like just the right type of book to reassure the youngest among them. You can find out more in this review by Jo Clarke.

Jumbo the Most Famous Elephant Who Ever Lived by Alexandra Stewart and Emily Sutton – picture book nonfiction is a wonderful way for children to learn and this beautiful book is an excellent example. In his helpful review teacher Paul Watson describes this ‘cracking read’ and provides suggestions as to how to use this book in the classroom.

Be an Artist Everyday by Susan Schwake and Charlotte Farmer – a pocket sized journal to prompt creativity with ideas, shape challenges and colour tests. In her review Louise Nettleton says, ‘This would be a lovely treat at the start of the new school year. It is no bigger than most notebooks and would slip nicely into a school bag for playtime or lunchbreak activities.’


Mason Mooney Paranormal Investigator by Seaerra Miller – my own knowledge of graphic novels is limited so I rely on the advice of others for recommendations. This great review by Mat Tobin provides a wonderful taste of what to expect from this one. ‘This is a beautifully presented debut, rich in humour and with a diverse cast.’ I’m now very much looking forward to reading this.

October, October by Katya Balen illustrated by Angela Harding – this is a lovely review by teacher Andrew Rough who describes the book as ‘a strong story about relationships and coming to terms with your place in the world’ and excellent for Upper Key Stage 2 (aged 8plus) Perfect for primary school libraries and classrooms and publishes on 17th September.

The Hungry Ghost – H.S. Norup – another lovely review! This time by Rich Simpson. I love the sound of this for Rich says, ‘This was a thrilling, exciting, thoughtful and moving story. It kept me gripped from start to end, desperate to find out more and have the secrets revealed.’ Published on 24th September and another for the shopping lists.

The Wanderer by Peter Van Den Ende – this looks simply stunning. A wordless picturebook that comes recommended by Mat Tobin is definitely going on my wish list and his beautiful review, ‘a ‘visual delight’ would be selling Peter Van Den Ende’s creation short.’, has convinced me to put this one near the top of that list.

The Girl Who Became a Tree by Joseph Coelho; illustrated by Kate Milner – this fabulous review by Ben Harris has persuaded me that I need to get a copy of this book which sounds both intriguing and remarkable. One for older readers of KS3 and above Ben has described this as ‘without doubt one of my books of the year’ which is good enough for me.

That’s all for this week. I do hope that this contains something of interest or a resource or idea that will be helpful. Have a happy weekend with some time for reading and warm good wishes for a happy and healthy Autumn term.

Next week I am taking part on the blog tour to celebrate the publication of To the Island by Patricia Forde illustrated by Nicola Bernardelli so do please look out for this to find out more.





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