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. The highlight has probably been the announcement of the Carnegie and Kate Greenaway Awards long lists. This always prompts debate in the children’s book community which highlights its importance. Full details of the lists are included below.

What I’m reading…

Picture books can be wonderful for conveying themes and emotions in a manner that touches readers of all ages. This week I read and reviewed A Song for Everyone by Lucy Morris for Just Imagine a book that combines the soothing nature of music, the importance of cooperation and community in a story of well-being. It’s a book with several possible interpretations I think and I love the illustrations.

The Shark Caller by Zillah Bethel is receiving a great deal of positive attention within the children’s book community so when I started reading it this week I was slightly concerned it would not match my expectations. I shouldn’t have worried. I think it is a beautiful story about friendship, grief and forgiveness and I feel as though I have gained from reading it. Sometimes books really do make a difference. My review will be up on the blog next week.

First Names is a series of biographies published by David Fickling Books and this month sees the publication of the latest in the series featuring Nelson Mandela. Prior to taking part in the forthcoming blog tour I settled down to read it and was impressed by the amount of detail and information contained in this accessible and interesting book. You can find out more on Monday when I welcome author Nansubuga N Isdahl and illustrator Nicole Miles to my blog to talk about their collaboration and the creative process.

On Friday my day started with a smile thanks to The Space Detectives. A fast paced and funny plot featuring an appealing duo by Mark Powers and great illustrations by Dapo Adeola in his distinctive style. I enjoyed this first in a new series, published by Bloomsbury this month, and can see it being popular.

News, articles and resources…

The British Library: All our stories: celebrating ethnic diversity in primary reading March 11th – Discover inspiring ways to develop and enjoy an inclusive collection of books with children at your school. This event is an exciting collaboration between the British Library, Seven Stories, the Centre for Literacy in Primary Education and Newcastle University. You can book your place via the link.

The Open University: Reading for Pleasure – this comprehensive website has just been updated and is a treasure trove worth exploring. The new structure is excellent; navigation is easier now, there’s a section for parents and it’s possible to save your favourite resources, examples of good practice etc. A wonderful and valuable website for everyone with an interest in children’s reading.

48 Best Middle-Grade Novels in Verse – I was converted to verse novels by The Weight of Water by Sarah Crossan which is included in this wonderful list on the Reading Middle Grade website. It includes old favourites and newer titles and would be a great place to start looking for books for schools, libraries or home.

Meet the Monsters (with Mini Grey) – this fascinating article by Mini Grey on the Picture Book Den blog made me think about all the different monsters I’ve encountered in children’s fiction, from my own childhood, that of my sons and in my role as a school librarian. They are an important part of children’s literature and this is a thought provoking read.

Lit in Colour Pioneers Programme – Schools now have the opportunity to join the Lit In Colour Pioneers programme for free access to set texts, CPD webinars & more to support the integration of BAME writers into the GCSE & A-Level English Lit curriculum. You can find out more in this article containing links to further information on the School Library Association website.

The Klaus Flugge Prize Slideshow – following last week’s announcement of the long list for this award Mat Tobin has generously created this excellent resource which is freely available to share. It contains links to information about the listed books, their creators and the publishers. A delight that I’m still exploring and would highly recommend.

The Smile Shop author Satoshi Kitamura: ‘Kindness is probably the most important thing that we can give each other’ – well this lovely article shared by Book Trust to mark Kindness Week certainly made me smile, I hope it makes you smile too!

Q&A with Carnegie and Kate Greenaway 2021 Judge Akbar Ali – As a designer & illustrator, Judge Akbar Ali reflects on how illustration enhances reading and storytelling, the importance of representation in picture books and much more in this insightful interview with Peters Books.

FREE Event with Kwame Alexander – Publishers Andersen Press are offering the chance for your pupils to meet award-winning poet and novelist Kwame Alexander in an exclusive online event for UK schools on Thursday March 11th. Full details and booking available via the link.

The Kids Are All Right: LGBTQ+ Books for Children and Young People – Sheffield and Lambeth Libraries have compiled a list (link to PDF download in article) of books from picture books up to YA titles which depict the diverse range of identities in the LGBTQ+ community.

Long Lists Announced for 2021 CILIP Carnegie and Kate Greenaway Awards – The Medals celebrate outstanding achievement in children’s writing and illustration respectively and are unique in being judged by children’s librarians, with the Shadowers’ Choice Award voted for by children and young people. 40 titles have been longlisted for the 2021 Medals (20 on each longlist). I was pleased to see After the War by Tom Palmer and The Girl Who Speaks Bear by Sophie Anderson on the Carnegie list as I think these are two outstanding books for a middle grade audience. There are several picturebooks on the wonderful Greenaway list that I hope make the short list on 18th March.

Become a RECORD SMASHER! with children’s author Jenny Pearson – Ever wanted to SMASH a World Record? In celebration of the upcoming publication of The Incredible Record Smashers by Jenny Pearson, Usborne and Guinness World Records are encouraging as many  children as possible to have a go at SMASHING a book-themed record this #WorldBookDay 2021! Book dominos, book pyramids, balancing books on your head… Everyone who has a go gets an official certificate to prove they are INCREDIBLE. Details of how to get involved are available via the link.

World Book Day: Mark’s Dilemma Lesson Plan – this is excellent and I would like to thank Ben Harris for sharing this resource. What if you’re a black/minority ethnic teacher who has to dress up as a white character to be recognised? This issue sparked the idea for this brilliant teaching guide from the Philosophy Man and Darren Chetty.

Authorfy Book Extracts – yet another fabulous resource from Authorfy. Download hundreds of FREE extracts from children’s books. Download as many as you like; no account / sign-up needed, use in school or at home, new extracts added every week. There is a wide range of titles available.

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

Can Bears Ski? – Raymond Antrobus, ill. Polly Dunbar – this is a lovely review by Rich Simpson and the Q&A with Polly Dunbar (with a little help from Isla!) is interesting too. This highlights, yet again, the importance of children being able to see themselves in books.

I Am Every Good Thing by Derrick Barnes and Gordon C James – another picture book which reflects our diverse society. I love the illustrations shared in this review by Rachael from Picture Book Perfect and think this sounds a wonderful and uplifting book.

The Last Bear – Hannah Gold, ill.by Levi Pinfold – another lovely review by Rich Simpson and I enjoyed the glimpse of the illustrations by Levi Pinfold whose work I admire. The story sounds wonderful and one that will resonate with children who are interested in protecting our environment and Rich has included links to Hannah Gold’s website and her favourite children’s books about climate change.

The History of the African and Caribbean Communities in Britain – This book reveals the little-known history of the African and Caribbean communities in Britain. It looks at why people came to Britain, the problems they faced, and the contribution they have made to British society. In her review for Just Imagine Laura Ovenden says “This important history book needs to be in every primary and secondary school library. It gives that important overview but is also peppered with inspiring individuals who were agents of change.” 

Three Keys by Kelly Yang – on Thursday I took part in a inspiring discussion organised by Ben Harris on Twitter about reading for empathy. The next day I read this wonderful review by Nicki Cleveland who says of this book, “All of the characters leap off the page and it is easy to empathise with all of them – the adage that every one is fighting their own battle has never been so plainly put.” Three Keys is definitely going on my reading list.

That’s all for this week, I hope it’s helpful. There is dry weather promised this weekend here so I’m putting books aside briefly to do battle with the garden. Happy reading and ‘see’ you next Saturday.

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