Reading Matters – children’s book news

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

What I’m reading…

My family know me well so my Christmas and birthday presents included a wonderful selection of titles plus book tokens so I could indulge myself still further. One of the books my eldest son gave me was Dear Reader by Cathy Retzenbrink, which I finished last weekend. I loved this comforting mix of memoir, homage to the power of books to heal and encourage and many tempting book lists to explore. It is a book I will cherish for many reasons and one I will return to.

Turning to children’s books, this week I read Darwin’s Dragons by Lindsay Gavin. This is a story so compelling that I carried it around with me; every single chapter revealed a new challenge for our hero. Historical fiction that brings science and exploration to life for young readers and a book I would highly recommend for Year 4 upwards. You can read my review and a link to some great teaching resources created by Scott Evans here.

News, articles and resources…

Holocaust Memorial Day resources– A reminder that there is an excellent range of resources to commemorate Holocaust Memorial Day (27th January) available on the Literacy Trust website. These include five short videos by award winning author Tom Palmer (with worksheets) encouraging children to write a story based on the testimony of a refugee.

Virtual library gives children in England free book access – Internet classroom Oak National Academy created the library after schools moved to remote learning for the majority of pupils until February half-term. Formed with The National Literacy Trust, the library will provide a book a week from its author of the week. This is a help to those primary schools which do not have an ebook platform and may encourage children to use the ebook facility at their local library too.

The best new children’s books — space dads and everyday wonders – James Lovegrove reviews new titles for the Financial Times. I am looking forward to reading every single book he mentions.

Ones to Watch: New Children’s Fiction for Spring 2021 – the Books for Topics team has been taking a look at some of the brilliant new middle-grade titles (ages 8-12) coming up this term. They have picked out ten top recommendations to watch out for from January to March 2021.

Thunder and Lightnings by Jan Mark: Walking the Norfolk Sky – last year I took part in an online book chat organised by Ben Harris linked to Thunder and Lightenings and enjoyed it very much. Even if you are not familiar with the book this is an excellent read and a chance to explore the Norfolk countryside despite being confined to our homes. Thank you to Jon Appleton and Mat Tobin who shared this lovely piece last weekend.

Short Story Collections – if you are looking for short stories to share with children during lockdown Jo Cummins has selected some of her favourites.

Welcome to nature 2.0 for a new generation of Ladybird readers – During the late 1950s and early 1960s, four children’s books about the natural world were published. They bore the title What to Look for in… followed by each of the four seasons: Spring, SummerAutumn and Winter. Now, more than 60 years later, Ladybird Books is publishing a new series under the same title, written by Elizabeth Jenner and illustrated by Natasha Durley. Like the originals, they aim to inspire budding young naturalists to learn more about the wild creatures they might see during the different seasons.

Authors and illustrators lend a hand during lockdown – The Bookseller has provided this online round-up of what some children’s authors and illustrators are offering during lockdown featuring Michael Rosen, Emma Carroll, Piers Torday and many more.

Coram Beanstalk #StayHomeAndReadEveryDay Poster – Now we’re all stuck indoors again let people know what books you are sharing together at home with this new #SHARE poster to colour-in & display. A lovely idea to get children talking about books and reading.

World Book Day in Lockdown – the organisers of World Book Day have updated their FAQ page to provide information about how this event will run this year and using the special book tokens. The website contains a wealth of useful resources suitable for home and school.

Climate activism, through fiction: Middle Grade Fiction – an excellent selection on the Climate Fiction Writers League website including books by Piers Torday, Tom Huddleston, Ele Fountain and Gill Lewis. A good place to start if you are looking for titles to inspire children.

School Library Association Webinar: Empathy Lab book collection – this year’s Read for Empathy Collections for primary and secondary will be announced on 26th January. Run by Sarah Mears MBE, Libraries Connected Programme Manager, this webinar will highlight these books chosen by experts. Sarah will be talking about some of her favourite books in the collection and explain the ‘empathy angles’ that guided their selection and the skills they hope that using the books will build. She will be suggesting ways to use the collection within an empathy context and sharing some of the exciting plans Libraries Connected have for Empathy Day 2021. It is free for SLA members and £18 for non-members. Further details via the link.

The Golden Beano – six digital issues of The Beano are free to download on this website. Thank you to Jon Biddle for sharing this link.

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


The Song for Everyone written and illustrated by Lucy Morris – chosen as a Debut of the Month by LoveReading4Kids this picture book celebrating music and its power to change lives sounds extremely appealing. Andrea Reece says “The illustrations come as close as you can get to a visual representation of music and are full of warmth and fellowship.”

Swan Song by Gill Lewis – I am lucky to have a proof copy of this sitting on my shelves and was already looking forward to reading it. This lovely review by Roy James for Just Imagine has made me want to read it even more! “What struck me so powerfully was the sense of freedom running through its pages. And it’s with this that Gill Lewis weaves together a story of personal growth, family, and healing wrapped up in nature.”

The House at the Edge of Magic by Amy Sparkes – I read and reviewed this book over Christmas for the School Librarian magazine and think that Louise Nettleton has captured its appeal in her review, “This story is going to be a hit with children who are a bit young for the darker themes of the middle-grade market but want something more challenging than younger fiction titles offer

The Hungry Ghost, by H.S. Norup – although I have already included a review of this book published last September this excellent and insightful review by Nick Campbell is definitely worth a read. His comment, “This is one novel that gives the lie to any claim that ‘issues novels’ and ‘novels of the imagination’ are in any kind of hierarchy, or even a binary: the wide-open terrain of the children’s novel allows ‘issues’ to be explored with whatever storytelling device is most effective, and most powerful.” resonated with me. I must read The Hungry Ghost soon!

Lastly, there is a book of poetry being published later this year by Amanda Gorman that is most definitely on my literary shopping list. Here is the reason why….The Hill We Climb: the Amanda Gorman poem that stole the inauguration show

Happy reading!

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2 Responses to Reading Matters – children’s book news

  1. Thank you for providing the link to the virtual school library Anne, I have just forwarded this to my ex-colleagues who will find it very useful. Have a lovely weekend 😊

    Liked by 1 person

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