Hello and welcome to this week’s look at what has been happening in the world of children’s books. There’s been a lot happening and it can be hard to keep track of it all so I hope this collection will be something that you can browse over half term. Yet again I’ve been struck this week by the kindness, enthusiasm and supportive nature of the children’s book community.
What I’m reading…
When the Sky Falls by Phil Earle more than lived up to all the plaudits it is receiving from respected children’s authors. I loved this book and the wonderful characters around whom the story centres. Joseph and Mrs F. are real people to me now and will long remain so. Please do read my review to find out why I think this book is so special. You really don’t have to be a fan of historical fiction to enjoy this, it is a story that will have an impact on many. There was an excellent launch event this week chaired by Sarah Crossan which I enjoyed very much and would highly recommend, the link is included below.
In last week’s Reading Matters I mentioned the English Association Book Awards and this week I reviewed the winner of the Non-Fiction 4-7 category, A New Green Day by Antoinette Portis and her book Hey, Water both of which are an excellent introduction to the world of information books.
Alongside the children’s books I am also regularly dipping into Monty Don’s My Garden World which I am finding is an excellent way to slow down and relax. Even ten minutes reading his descriptions of nature is enough to soothe and encourage me to look at our small suburban garden in a different way.
News, articles and resources…
Virtual Launch Event: When The Sky Falls by Phil Earle – Sarah Crossan talking to Phil Earle about this wonderful book feels a little like eavesdropping on friends chatting. It’s entertaining, funny and enlightening. The insight in to the editorial process, the emotional input in the story itself and the tempting details of Phil’s next book all make this a joy. Thank you Phil and Sarah.
Phillip Pullman in Conversation with Michael Rosen – I had booked to attend this virtual interview but the change of date meant that I was no longer able to do so. Thankfully the recording has been made available for us all to watch. An absolute treat and not only for children’s book lovers.
How do we connect students to LGBT resources? – an article by school librarian Verity Jones on the CILIP School Libraries Group blog providing helpful advice and tips on everything from book lists to display.
Graphic Novels Are Real Books! New Infographic From Capstone! – super school librarian Shannon McClintock Miller shared this brilliant infographic poster last weekend. It shows the benefits, the skills developed and even a few fun facts regarding graphic novels which readers love and is free to download.
Scottish Teenage Book Prize winner – the winner of the Scottish Teenage Book Prize 2021 is Evernight by Ross MacKenzie. This book and the sequel, Feast of the Evernight, are fantasy stories with a real taste of danger and intrigue and I enjoyed reading both of them. You can watch the announcement and find out more about the winning book via the link above.
Puffin Schools Virtual Author Visits – there are some fabulous authors in this line up and 45-minute webinar session will include a live presentation by an author giving pupils a behind-the-scenes look at their books, characters and writing process. Thank you to Jon Biddle for flagging this up.
Little Rebels Award Shortlist Announced – on Tuesday the nine books shortlisted for this award were announced. The Little Rebels Award celebrates children’s fiction which challenges stereotypes, promotes social justice and advocates for a more peaceful and fairer world. A wonderful selection and well worth exploring, these are the sort of books that can make a difference.
KPMG Children’s Books Ireland Awards – The winners of the 2021 KPMG Children’s Books Ireland Awards were announced this week. Since 1990, these prestigious awards have identified, honoured and promoted excellence in books for young people, and continue to offer a significant opportunity for national and international recognition of Irish talent. There are several categories including a Reading Hero Award which is a great idea. Full details of all the winners can be found via the link.
Jhalak Prize Winners – First awarded in March 2017, the Jhalak Prize and its new sister award Jhalak Children’s & YA Prize founded in 2020, seek to celebrate books by British/British resident BAME writers. Congratulations to the first Children’s and YA winner, Patrice Lawrence for Eight Pieces of Silva .
Interview with Fabia Turner – find out more about the Jericho Prize and why it exists in this interesting interview with its founder on the Writers and Artists website. Fabia can also be found in her Candid Cocoa blog.
50 Recommended Reads for PreSchool and Nursery – Alison and her team at Books for Topics have created yet another helpful list of their choices for best books for this age group. There is a lovely balance of old favourites and new titles with something here to tempt our littlest book fans on to the reading journey.
Eric Carle, The Very Hungry Caterpillar author and illustrator, dies at 91 – sad news that prompted an outpouring of love and respect for a man who encouraged generations of children to enjoy stories and pictures. We must all have happy memories of reading, sharing and enjoying Eric Carles’s wonderful books. I particularly like this article also from the Guardian: Children’s authors on Eric Carle: ‘He created readers as voracious as that caterpillar’
Waterstones Children’s Book Prize Shortlist 2021 – This year’s selection – as always chosen by Waterstones’ booksellers – are in three categories; Illustrated Books, Young Readers and Older Readers.
The Alligator’s Mouth Award for illustrated early fiction – Five books have been shortlisted for The Alligator’s Mouth Award 2021, which champions authors and illustrators of highly illustrated children’s fiction. Now in its third year, the children’s book prize created by The Alligator’s Mouth children’s bookshop and The Bright Agency, celebrates the best books for 6-8-year-olds.
2021 Carnegie and Kate Greenaway Shadowers’ Choice Awards – a reminder that voting for the Shadowers’ Choice Awards closes next Wednesday, 2nd June. The winners will be revealed at the live event on 16th June.
The Reader Teacher May Must Reads – Scott Evans has selected his favourites from this month and they include poetry, picture book and fiction. There’s a free downloadable poster for use in libraries or classrooms too.
Barnes Children’s Literature Festival – the programme for this excellent children’s book event was published yesterday and is crammed full of appealing speakers such as Frank Cottrell Boyce, Lauren Child, Hilary McKay, Phil Earle and many more. The tickets go on sale today and will undoubtedly be snapped up quickly.
Last but most definitely not least, this evening at 8pm on Instagram a special party to celebrate the publication of Nen and the Lonely Fisherman by Ian Eagleton and James May next week. Listen to Stephen Fry read this tender and hopeful story.
Finally, some book reviews that caught my eye this week…
Omar, the Bees and Me by Helen Mortimer and Katie Cottle – the Book Trust team describe this new picture book as a “perfect balance of fact and narrative, this heartwarming picture book will engage and delight young children, and is sure to inspire them to encourage bees into their own outdoor spaces.”
The Incredible Talking Machine by Jenni Spangler & illustrated by Chris Mould – this is a rather enticing review by Kate Heap. Although I have not read the first in the series yet this does sound great fun. I love the cover by Chris Mould too.
Irresistible Illustrated Fiction – librarian and children’s author Jo Clarke is also one of the judges for the Alligator Award mentioned above so we know we can count on her recommendations for young fiction. This is a lovely selection.
Cardboard Cowboys by Brian Conaghan – I know from discussions with other school librarians that it can sometimes be difficult to find the right sort of book to bridge the transition from fiction for the middle years audience to the YA market. This sounds like just the ticket. Ben Harris in his helpful review for Just Imagine says “Around the ages of 10-13, it’s so important for boys and girls to learn about what’s going through each other’s minds, to understand how the outside appearance of each other can actually hide very similar anxieties and joys… Reading a book like Cardboard Cowboys will be not only a life-enhancing experience for the story it tells but for the opportunities for connection and reflection it offers its target audience.”
Fake News by C J Dunford – ‘fake news’ was selected as Collins Dictionary’s Word of the Year in 2017 and any story that helps children and teens to think about this and learn to identify valid information is a good idea. This review on Mr Ripley’s Enchanted Books suggests that this one should be top of the shopping list. “It’s thrilling, emotional, thought-provoking, and very topical. Yet it’s told in a clever, comical, and imaginatively contemporary way.“
That’s all the news for this week. I hope that those of you enjoying a half term holiday this week have a restful break and maybe even time to sit in the sunshine.