Hello and welcome to this week’s look at what has been happening in the world of children’s books. Sometimes it is difficult to avoid the feeling that many aspects of life are on hold but there have been some positive events this week that are well worth highlighting. Both the Read for Empathy collections and the Branford Boase Longlist were announced this week. We need empathy more than ever and this initiative from Empathy Lab is both important and inspiring. It has been a particularly challenging year for debut authors and the Branford Boase Award is a welcome opportunity to celebrate with the authors and editors involved. There are details of both included below. On a personal note my 89 year old Dad received his first Covid vaccination this week and I had to resist the temptation to skip out of the Epsom racecourse grandstand! I hope you have had something to smile about this week too.
What I’m reading…
On Sunday I read The Elephant by Peter Carnavas in one sitting. It tells the story of a brave little girl trying to put back together the broken pieces of her family. A small book brimming with love and hope. I think it is utterly beautiful and will post a review soon.
The Hatmakers by Tamzin Merchant was a joy to read this week. I escaped to a magical alternative Georgian London and experienced feuds and dastardly villains but hope and friendship too. Thank you to Nikki Gamble and Just Imagine for my copy and my review for them will be completed this weekend.
The Read for Empathy collections were announced on Tuesday and I wrote about them here. I am impressed yet again by the quality of the list and grateful to all those involved in this initiative which is growing each year both in impact and importance.
The 2021 Branford Boase Longlist was also announced this week and this is a welcome opportunity to celebrate new authors, their editors and their stories in what has been a most difficult time to launch their debut. This wide ranging list includes titles suitable for both primary and secondary school children.
The 2021 #ReadforEmpathy Book Collection is here! – this link to the official Empathy Lab website takes you to full information, including guides to the primary and secondary collections, an interview with the founder, Miranda McKearney and details of the previous collections too.
Reading for Pleasure Padlet – teacher Andrew Rough, originator of the #SundayMorningBookBlether chat on Twitter, has kindly compiled a selection of useful websites, blogs, Padlets, Facebook groups and discussions that provide inspiration for reading for pleasure.
ReadingZone Picture Book Competition 2021 – Reading Zone are challenging children and young people aged 4-18 years to create a picture book on or around World Book Day, with the launch of the ReadingZone Picture Book Competition 2021. Author and illustrator Mini Grey (The Last Wolf, Traction Man) will judge this year’s competition. The competition will run from January to Friday 23rd April. The winners will be announced in early June 2021. The link takes you to full details including tips from Mini herself and guidelines for entry.
The Windermere Children – I missed this programme when it was first shown so was grateful for the opportunity to watch the showing this week timed to coincide with. Holocaust Memorial Day. It tells the true story of the children who inspired Tom Palmer’s book, After The War.
Children’s Author Tom Percival on Sky News – this is a great interview in which Tom says that books are essential for children, encourages the support of independent bookshops and stresses the importance of reading for pleasure. Helped a little by his dog!
A brilliant UK and Ireland children and young adults’ booklist – as we remain in national lockdown this wonderful list of fifty books on the Tripfiction website allows children and young people to read their way around beautiful Britain and Ireland.
New presenters for children’s book radio show and podcast Down the Rabbit Hole – “Down the Rabbit Hole” is starting 2021 with a new presenting and production team, including author Sam Sedgman, Scholastic’s Hannah Love, Little Tiger’s Charlie Morris and The Bookseller‘s Caroline Carpenter. The new format for the show will involve picking a monthly theme, inviting guests and examining books that link to the month’s discussion topic.
Newbery and Caldecott 2021 Winners – a write up on the Pragmatic Mom blog of this year’s winners and honours lists for each of these prestigious US book awards. Michaela Goade became the first Native American to win the Caldecott Medal for her illustrations in the children’s book “We Are Water Protectors”.
Seven Stories Digital Author Event with Michael Morpurgo – Thursday 11th February 2021, 1.30pm Recommended age: Y3, Y4, Y5 & Y6. This event will be live streamed through a private YouTube link and last approximately 45 minutes, including a talk from Michael and a Q&A at the end. Michael will be talking about some of his best-loved books including War Horse, The Butterfly Lion, Shadow and Private Peaceful, as well as reading from his latest book, Boy Giant.
Reading Zone Book Club – this newsletter includes their featured authors for January, Children’s Author of the Month Cat Weldon introduces the Vikings and Norse Gods in How to be a Hero and YA Author of the Month is KL Kettle with The Boy I Am, a powerful dystopian novel exploring gender and power. There are also chapter extracts to download and information about their forthcoming book club events. This is a very useful website.
BookTrust Represents, Knights Of and CLPE unveil new Black British anthology Happy Here – BookTrust has teamed up with the inclusive publisher Knights Of and the Centre for Literacy in Primary Education (CLPE) to produce a brilliant new anthology of stories from Black British authors and illustrators including Patrice Lawrence, Joseph Coelho, Onyinye Iwu and Selom Sunu. Happy Here, which is introduced by High Rise Mystery author Sharna Jackson, pairs ten Black writers and ten Black illustrators for stories and poems covering themes of joy, home and family.
Share A Story with World Book Day – the organisers of World Book Day launched the schedule of FREE events for the new Share A Story Live this week. Whether you’re at home or at school, join the £1 authors & illustrators in World Book Day week for 3 days of online fun from 3rd-5th March.
Children’s books roundup – the best new picture books and novels – another simply fabulous selection from Imogen Russell Williams. I always know I’m going to enjoy a book that Imogen recommends and I was happy to see two of my recent favourites included; The Valley of Lost Secrets by Lesley Parr and The House at the Edge of Magic by Amy Sparkes. I’m also reminded that I must buy Talk Like a River.
Lesson Plan: Discuss 22-year-old Amanda Gorman’s inaugural poem “The Hill We Climb” – this article on PBS News provides a lesson in which students examine the poetry of Amanda Gorman, who was chosen to read her poem “The Hill We Climb” at President Joe Biden’s inauguration on Jan. 20, 2021. Gorman’s poem complemented Biden’s inaugural address and was written to reflect on “the history that we stand on, and the future that we stand for.” Thank you to the School Library Association for sharing this.
Children’s Bookshow Digital Festival 2021 – the organisers have programmed six brilliant LIVE digital author events over three days to celebrate World Book Day, and to encourage children to love reading and books. Line up includes Michael Rosen, Kwame Alexander, Catherine Johnson, Neal Layton and more. Thank you to Jon Biddle for sharing this.
Finally, some book reviews that caught my eye this week…
A Shelter for Sadness,’ by Anne Booth, illustrated by David Litchfield – a couple of weeks ago I shared a lovely interview with the creators of this new picture book which was published last week. This review by Jo Cummins and personal reflection on sadness by Anne Booth is a thoughtful read. A book I am very much looking forward to reading.
Too Small Tola & The Three Fine Girls by Atinuke and illustrated by Onyinye Iwu – a lovely review by Nicki Cleveland of this second book in the series about Tola. “There is so much love and laughter packed within the pages, and I loved seeing such a connected, diverse community supporting each other.”
Amari and the Night Brothers’, by B.B. Alston – this book is receiving a lot of attention at the moment, it is also included in the Guardian Best Children’s Books article above, and was already pencilled in on my wish list. This great review by Nick Campbell has made me even more enthusiastic. How can we resist a book described as, “a big-screen, 3D, popcorn-munching romp of a novel” and it’s the first of a series too!
Front Desk by Kelly Yang – this is a fabulous and insightful review by Sam Creighton for Just Imagine in which he discusses the various themes covered in this book published by Knight Of. In addition to being both important and relevant Sam also found it thoroughly enjoyable, “I completely and whole-heartedly loved reading this book and I can’t think of a stronger recommendation than that.”
What We’re Scared Of by Keren David – this is another book that I have already mentioned in Reading Matters, with the interview with Keren David on the Awfully Big Blog Adventure. This excellent review by Clare Zinkin explains why this new book matters so much. Definitely a book for all secondary school library shelves.
That’s it for this week. A reminder that the coming week is National Storytelling Week and you can find out more on the official website. Happy reading!