Reading Matters – children’s book news

Hello and welcome to this week’s round up of news from the world of children’s books. I hope that it has gone well for all of those of you who were back in school this week.

What I’m reading…

At the end of December my older son gave me a copy of The Thursday Murder Club by Richard Osman for my birthday and it has been sitting on my bedside table unread and looking accusingly at me ever since as my attention has been held by the many excellent children’s books being published at the moment. This week I read it and have driven my other half mad by giggling loudly and often. It helps that in my head I’m listening to the author’s voice and deadpan delivery. I loved it and thanks to my giggling everyone in the family wants to read it now. Imagine an Agatha Christie set in a retirement home, with a poignancy and a wry look at life, this has been a bestseller for many weeks so it doesn’t really need my recommendation but I shall give it anyway. This week it was just what I needed to avoid the news and online sadness but I promise to return to children’s books next week.


News, articles and resources…

Wigtown Book Festival 22nd -27th March – this children’s book festival BigDog takes place from 22 March. Find out more and book free tickets to online events via the link above. The line-up includes Ross Mackenzie, Abi Elphinstone and Clare Rayner and there are workshops, sensory storytime and lots more.

We read books to my daughter from birth, which enriched all our lives – a lovely article by Donna Ferguson in the Guardian about the joy of sharing books with babies and young children.

School Librarian of the Year 2021: Inspirational School Librarians Honour List – Caroline Bradley, Creative Director of Just Imagine writes about these fabulous school librarians and shares their good practice. A shining example of what is possible when school librarians and libraries are valued.

Inspiring Young Readers: An Interview with Kate Pankhurst – In the month in which we celebrate International Women’s Day, Elaine Chant talks to Kate Pankhurst about her Fantastically Great Women series for Books for Keeps.

Six Questions for Alec Williams, author of Get Everyone Reading – Q&A with Cathal Coyle, Publications Co-ordinator (SLA) about his experiences and views on reading, libraries, and storytelling. In case you missed it last week here’s the link to download your free copy of Get Everyone Reading.

Inaugural Long List for Jhalak Children’s & YA Prize – this award celebrates books by British/British resident BAME writers and the long list includes great titles for both primary and secondary schools.

“Keep hopeful!”: Smriti Halls says goodbye as Writer in Residence – as her six months as Writer in Residence for Book Trust comes to an end Smriti Halls shares five things she’s explored, experienced and learned during her residency which she hopes we’ll be able to hold onto as we move to a sunnier future.

Fiction for older children – reviews – Kitty Empire’s selection of titles suitable for the middle year’s audience includes Amari and the Night Brothers and Me, My Dad and the End of the Rainbow plus How to Change Everything which she describes as “essential reading”.

The Reading Agency partners with WWF for nature-focused Summer Reading Challenge – This year’s Summer Reading Challenge theme is ‘Wild World Heroes’. To deliver it The Reading Agency has teamed up with WWF to encourage children across the country to engage in fun reading activity focused on environmental issues. This year, with the help of the new digital platform, the charity will be aiming to increase its impact even further and reach 1 million children.

Dara McAnulty: It’s time to grab the slippery eel of hope – after the last twelve months sometimes it is hard to remain hopeful but both Smriti Hall’s article above and this piece have boosted my hopes this week.

Shortlist for the KPMG Children’s Books Ireland Awards 2021 Announced – The titles competing for this year’s KPMG Children’s Books Ireland Awards have been revealed, giving an impressive and powerful picture of the status of contemporary Irish children’s literature. The selection is made up of a spread of books for young readers of all ages – from picturebooks to young adult novels, and of the eight shortlisted titles, five are published by independent Irish publishers.

Letters of Kindness – On World Book Day Children’s Laureate Wales Eloise Williams has launched the Letters of Kindness project. Over the next month, children are encouraged to write a letter of kindness to themselves to highlight kind things that they do or have done, and things about themselves and in their lives that they appreciate and are proud of. Letter templates are available via the link.

Teaching resource: All our stories! from the British Library – this is wonderful from British Library Learning. Download All our stories! teachers’ guide to find out how to use the Discovering Children’s Books website to celebrate ethnic diversity and develop a rich primary reading curriculum. There are articles introducing each of the themes, book lists and suggested activities.

Weird, Wild and Wonderful: An interview with James Carter – this post on the Reading Realm website provides a fascinating insight into the work of this particular poet and James Carter also gives dome advice to teachers about the ‘teaching’ of poetry.

Bookbuzz 2021 – a reminder that registration for Bookbuzz, Book Trust’s programme for students aged 11 – 13, is now open. This scheme supports and encourages reading for pleasure in Years 7 & 8 in schools.

Norton Juster, author of The Phantom Tollbooth, dies aged 91 – The US author was beloved for his pun-filled bestseller following a bored boy who drives into a magical kingdom, and for The Dot and the Line

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

A Fox and His Music: Gaspards’ Foxtrot by Zeb Soanes and James Mayhew – the third in the series inspired by a real urban fox this lovely review by Mary Esther Judy conveys the book’s appeal and the concert linked to the book sounds beautiful too.

The Tale of the Whale by Karen Swann and Padmacandra Meek – at the risk of sounding like an M&S advert this is not just a review this is a thoughtful journey through a rather special picturebook with Mat Tobin as our guide. I love the sound of this book published by Scallywag Press and its themes of appreciating our natural world and taking some action, no matter how small, to protect it.

Cinderella Liberator by Rebecca SolnitIllustrated by Arthur Rackham – another in the Fairy Tales Revolution series this review by Ben Harris for Just Imagine of this modern version of a traditional tale, “an intelligent, multi-layered and highly rewarding production, warmly recommended to mature readers in the junior classes prepared for some in-depth thinking and discussion.” has whetted my appetite to find out more.

Vampirates 1: Demons of the Ocean- Justin Somper – although this is not a new book I am sharing this review by Rich Simpson, part of this week’s blog tour, as the original series of books have been repackaged and there are three new titles being published this month by Uclan Publishing. The original books are brilliant for adventure lovers so these new titles are definitely worth looking out for. Author Justin Somper reveals his favourite adventure films too and there’s also a link to the online launch of the new books.

Swim, Shark, Swim by Dom Conlon illustrated by Anatstasia Izlesou – a poem that celebrates the endangered shark and the diversity of our oceans; this sounds wonderful and I enjoyed seeing a glimpse of the pages themselves and the beautiful illustrations. Sam Kelley of Just Imagine says “Swim, Shark, Swim is a book I would recommend for all ages in a primary school. It is the best kind of literature having a glorious combination of words and pictures which cast a spell over the reader.”

That’s everything for this week, I hope something here has proved to be helpful or interesting. Next week I’m looking forward to seeing which books make it on to the Carnegie and Kate Greenaway Award Shortlists on Thursday. It is sure to prompt debate and book chat!

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3 Responses to Reading Matters – children’s book news

  1. It is always so lovely to catch up with all the news from the children’s book world through your wonderful blog Anne. I am so pleased that you found a chance to read and enjoy the Richard Osman book. I found it such a warm-hearted story that I’m not surprised it was able to provide some respite from the horrors of this past week. I hope you have a lovely weekend 😊

    Liked by 2 people

    • alibrarylady says:

      Thank you, Veronica and I’m glad that we’re still able to chat via it. Hope everything is well with you. Yes, the Richard Osman book was just what I need this week and you are right about the warmth. Incredibly given that it’s a murder mystery it was also a celebration of humanity. My son is an excellent present chooser! I hope you have a lovely weekend.

      Liked by 2 people

      • Thank you Anne. I am still on a very steep learning curve but thoroughly enjoying my new job. I’m also in the middle of writing my final assignment for my PG Dip in library and info management, once I have submitted in May I hope to start reading through the very long wish list that I have compiled from your reviews 😁 How lovely that you have passed on your love of books to your son. It is so wonderful when our children turn the tables and recommend or give us the perfect book 😊

        Liked by 1 person

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