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…

This week I caught up with a couple of reviews of books that I mentioned in the last Reading Matters. The Elephant by Peter Carnavas is a gem of book for many reasons, it is comforting, it is accessible, it is kind and it is wise. I do hope that my review has done this special book justice. The Hatmakers is a debut from Tamzin Merchant and is definitely one to watch as I can see this being popular. An enjoyable story with important themes conveyed within the magic and excitement. You can read my review for Just Imagine here.


My assistant reviewer, aged 3, built her first snowman a couple of weeks ago so I thought it was a good time to share the picture book The Snowman and the Sun by Susan Taghdis and Ali Mafakheri. This would be a great book to use in Early Years and KS1 to introduce the water cycle and would prompt lots of questions.

The audience with Sita Brahmachari on Thursday evening was a total joy and I am grateful to Nikki Gamble for these wonderful events which have been and continue to be a highlight while we are restricted in attending book events in person. When Secrets Set Sail is a beautiful story and one I enjoyed reading very much earlier this week. The weaving together of history, secrets and family relationships was skilfully done and the ending is one that made my skin tingle. I also loved that Sita included a helpful librarian just as she did in Corey’s Rock. Her wisdom and kindness, evident in the event I attended, runs through her books.


News, articles and resources…

Empathy not Sympathy by Nikki Gamble for Just Imagine – if you only have time to read one link this week please make it this one. A personal and beautiful piece of writing on the power of empathy; a reflection on the need for books to portray the lives of everyone and to encourage social justice.

Kids’ Poems and Stories with Michael Rosen – a reminder that on Michael Rosen’s fabulous YouTube channel you will find more than 400 poems, stories, teaching ideas, ideas for writing stories or poems from Michael and other authors. A wonderful online resource for school or home.

Resources to encourage creativity at home – inspired by books! – Victoria Dilly aka The Book Activist has collected together suggestions linked to popular books that will give young readers the opportunity to get creative and encourage their reading for pleasure.

The Reader Teacher January 2021 Must Reads – Scott Evans looks back at his favourite books published last month with reviews and a downloadable poster. I’m delighted to see The Valley of the Lost Secrets included on Scott’s list.

Best New Children’s Books February 2021 Selected By TOPPSTA – a selection of titles to suit differing tastes including themes of adventure, family, space and dragons.

It’s OK Not To Be OK: Top tips for managing your child’s anxiety – this week has marked Children’s Mental Health Week and in this article for Book Trust Dr Tina Rae, child psychologist and author of It’s OK Not To Be OK, shares some great tips for managing children’s mental health, and our own, in uncertain times. The article also includes links to lists of books for talking about mental health.

LGBT HISTORY MONTH – a guest blog by Charlie Morris on the TOPPSTA website in which she shares some suggestions of books to look out for in 2021 that encourage empathy, and give LGBTQ+ characters a story of their own.

The Isle of Wight Story Festival – taking place during the half term break, 17th – 20th February, this free online event features a wonderful line-up if authors including Cerrie Burnell, Nicholas Allen, Jennifer Killick. Eve McDonnell and Neal Layton. There are details and a timetable of the programme available on the website. Thank you to Rich Simpson for spreading the word about this.

Children’s Football Writing Festival – A year on from the first Children’s Football Writing Festival, the National Football Museum is hosting some of its favourite children’s authors online this February half term. Includes Tom Palmer and Eve Ainsworth.

CILIP Free Webinar on Shadowing the 2021 Kate Greenaway Medal – Hosted by
Jake Hope and Amy McKay, this inspiring session will provide top tips on engaging less confident and keen readers of all ages in picture books.

Step by Step Guide to Creating a Book Review Padlet– school librarian Lucas Maxwell has used Padlet with great success with his pupils and this helpful step by step guide is for anyone who was thinking of using Padlet but maybe felt intimidated by it.

Michael Rosen’s Keynote Speech “The Power of Literature” – The talk Michael Rosen gave to Goldsmiths PGCE students on “The Power of Literature” He has generously made this interesting and thought provoking talk free to use it for INSETs etc.

OU Reading for Pleasure Book Blether’s History Recommendations – On 2nd February, Jon Biddle and Gemma Gascoine hosted the first in a series of 4 ‘Book Blethers’ – discussion threads on Twitter by the @OURfP(Open University Reading for Pleasure) group, where teachers recommend books to each other. The topic of the first session was History. You can access the full list on the Norfolk Children’s Book Centre’s page on Bookshop.org via the link above and purchase any that take your fancy.

CLPE Home Learning Help: Reading Books Aloud Videos the CLPE team have worked with a range of authors to create a number of video resources. These resources can be used to keep children reading and engaged purposefully in books while they may not have access to the books themselves.

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

Marshmallow Pie by Clara Vulliamy – the illustrated fiction created by Clara Vulliamy has in my experience been hugely popular in the primary school library. They are always enticing packages that encourage newly independent readers and this one sounds like another winner. Kate Hitchings, in her lovely review for Just Imagine says, “This book is one for teachers to read and share. It is a book that given at the right moment could create a reader.”

Opie Jones Talks to Animals,’ by Nat Luurtsema, illustrated by Fay Austin – another story featuring animals but this time for a slightly older audience. The first in a new series, this sounds great fun and as Jo Cummins says, “the messages about working hard to hone your skills, pushing past your fears and learning how to navigate friendships… are ones that all children need to practise”.

Show Us Who You Are by Elle McNicoll – A Kind of Spark, Elle McNicoll’s debut published last year attracted widespread praise, and this review by Kate Heap of the author’s forthcoming novel has definitely whetted my appetite to read this follow up. “This book deals with big ideas. It’s a challenging, empathy-building Middle Grade novel that will stretch well into the Young Adult age range.”

I Am The Minotaur by Anthony McGowan – this is a title in the new Rollercoasters series, a collaboration between Oxford University Press and Barrington Stoke and sounds perfect for secondary school libraries. Ben Harris describes it as having “a pacy plot” but suggests that teachers, “slow it down by sharing it as a read-aloud in the secondary school, alongside discussion and empathetic consideration.”

The Awesome Power of Sleep: How Sleep Super-Charges Your Teenage Brain by Nicola Morgan – award-winning teenage well-being expert Nicola Morgan, author of bestselling Blame My BrainThe Teenage Guide to Stress and The Teenage Guide to Friends now turns her focus to the issue of sleep and the problems created by lack of sleep. This excellent review by Sue Magee of The Bookbag has tempted me, “It’s a fascinating book and a very satisfying read both for teenagers and adults: I learned a great deal.”

Another busy week and I hope that this selection has provided a useful link or tempted you to try a new book. Happy reading!

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4 Responses to Reading Matters – children’s book news

  1. Calmgrove says:

    Excellent Nikki Gamble piece, as you said, and I watched a bit of the ever watchable (and listenable) Michael Rosen expounding on the Power of Literature. Thanks for continuing to post these round-ups: they underline how vibrant and vital children’s literature continues to be, despite our present crises.

    Liked by 1 person

    • alibrarylady says:

      Thank you, Chris. Nikki’s piece is exceptional, I think, and highlights why children’s books matter. There is much positivity within the children’s books community which is always cheering but during our present situation even more so.

      Liked by 1 person

  2. A wonderful post as ever, thank you Anne. I am currently reading The Awesome Power of Sleep and it is wonderfully written. Great science presented perfectly for teenagers, it will definitely be on my recommended reading list for the health literacy resources. Hope you enjoy the remainder of the weekend 😊

    Liked by 1 person

    • alibrarylady says:

      After a bad night’s sleep last night I think I should get hold of a copy! Nicola Morgan is a highly respected author of teen nonfiction so I’m not surprised you’re impressed with her writing. Thank you Veronica, I hope you’re having a good weekend too.

      Liked by 1 person

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