Welcome to this week’s look at what has been happening in the world of children’s books. As many schools are now busy with end of term events with little time for children’s book news or reading this will be the last Reading Matters of this school year. Despite the fact I no longer work in a school I still tend to think in academic years rather than calendar ones, a habit it’s difficult to break! What a school year this has been. Thank you to everyone who has commented, pointed me in the direction of useful items or said hello. One of the positives of this last eighteen months has been the kindness and generosity of the lovely children’s book gang. Thank you everyone, it has really helped. I’m hoping that Reading Matters will return in September. Over the next few weeks I plan to catch up with my reading so there will be more reviews on the blog which I hope will be helpful.
What I’m reading..
Last weekend I finished reading How To Be Brave by Daisy May Johnson and it was a treat. Take the best of traditional school stories and blend with eccentric but hugely likeable nuns, add a dash of ducks, mix in a few brave girls and you have the recipe for a winner. The blog tour marking the publication of this joyful book is taking place at the moment and my review will be posted up on 22nd July. Please do follow the rest of the tour to find out more.
I have also read a number of happy and uplifting picture books over the last few days and have reviewed a couple of them. What if, Pig? by Linzie Hunter is a perfect picture book for anyone who has ever let a small worry get out of hand. A reassuring and funny gem of a book, this is already a hit with the youngest member of our family. Ready, Steady School by Marianne Dubuc is tailor made for children who are starting school. This large format book is wonderful for sharing with lots to explore and discuss. I would highly recommend both of these excellent picture books and not only for very young children as there is much to enjoy and learn for older children too.
News, articles and resources…
First up is a suggestion that if you are on Twitter it would be a good idea to follow Nicolette Jones @NicoletteJones #threeofakind a regular Tweet she is posting highlighting current themes in picturebooks and drawing attention to more of them.
7 historical books that transport us to the past, chosen by Hilary McKay – if Hilary McKay recommends a book I am confident it will be excellent. As a lover of historical fiction I have read several of the titles Hilary selected and have now added a couple more to my reading list.
Nikki Gamble Presents an Audience With – the first series of these wonderful evenings has been a highlight of the past year for me. Nikki is an excellent interviewer making us feel part of the discussion and the guests are outstanding. I would highly recommend this second series. Booking is open now and full details are available via the link.
School Transition and Reading Survey – Bounce Together in partnership with the School Library Association bring you a free survey that will help you find out more about how and what your pupils read, their views towards reading and how they feel about going to a new school. You need to register for this offer by 19th July so don’t miss out!
The 2021 Branford Boase Award Ceremony 15th July – this year’s Branford Boase Award ceremony will be broadcast from 6.30pm on Thursday 15 July. In a new partnership this year’s ceremony will be hosted as part of the LoveReading LitFest as a special event open to all those interested in children’s literature. The event features all the shortlisted authors and some special guests.
Health Literacy in Schools Toolkit – This is a promotional video created for the Schools’ Health Literacy Toolkit, a resource provided by a team of health librarians, for use by school librarians and other professionals who work with children. The toolkit covers different aspects of health literacy from staying healthy to spotting fake news and looking after your mental health.
Writing about teenage boys: Body image, bullying, big feelings and more – Cardboard Cowboys author Brian Conaghan chats to Book Trust about writing for teenage boys and why it’s vital that they see themselves reflected in books.
The Klaus Flugge Prize Shortlist Sketchbook – thank you to Mat Tobin for making me aware of these great videos from the individual illustrators. These are being regularly added to and are a delight, providing an insight into the creative process behind the wonderful picturebooks included on this year’s shortlist.
The Teachers’ Reading Challenge – a reminder that this launches today, 10th July. This is an opportunity for school and library staff to expand their knowledge of contemporary children’s books and develop their understanding of reading for pleasure pedagogy. Run by The Reading Agency in partnership with the Open University with funding from Goldsmiths, University of London. There was a live event on Tuesday evening that is still available to watch via Facebook if you missed it.
Inclusive Indies – Inclusive Indies was set up by Knights Of and Jacaranda Books in partnership with Spread the Word in 2020, as a response to the impact of Covid-19 on independent presses. The aim for this year’s campaign running from 3rd – 17th July is to highlight the important work done by these small indies who often don’t have the marketing budget to reach new readers, and shine a spotlight on the important work they are doing.
The Week Junior: The Summer of Reading – this newspaper is one of my favourite publications for children, always packed full of useful news, articles and features. They are encouraging children to find their reading superpower this summer. What a great idea! There is a fantastic book list to choose from and details of how to get involved on the website via the link above.
Free Books Campaign – this organisation is collaborating with Marcus Rashford’s Book Club and MacmillanKidsUK to get 400 copies of brilliant children’s books into vital youth services across the UK & Ireland. You can read more about the campaign and how to request a copy via the link.
Summer 2021 Recommended Reads – Books for Topics have put together a list of some of their favourite new children’s books out this summer, listed by age group. The summer selection includes stories of far-away islands, creatures of the deep, treasure quests and plenty of adventures in the great outdoors.
The Alligator’s Mouth Award 2021 – you can watch the announcement of this year’s winner, Pizazz by Sophy Henn, on the video available via the link and find out more about this award for early illustrated fiction and the shortlist here.
A New Chapter’s Summer Reading Challenge – this is a great way to motivate children to read over the summer holiday without overwhelming them. Each challenge comprises ten books suitable for each year group from Reception to Year 11 with downloadable sheets to track progress available. A great resource and one worth exploring.
Teacher Hug Book Club – Primary School librarian Rumena Aktar discusses and reviews the latest children’s books and talks to the authors and illustrators on Teacher Hug Radio on Sunday at 11am. Tomorrow, 11th July, Rumena will be chatting with author Rashmi Sirdeshpande and illustrator Diane Ewen.
Book Blast Children’s Book Choices of the Month – another great initiative from Nikki Gamble. Join Nikki on the last Friday of each month to hear about forty new children’s books in twenty minutes. Hosted on Zoom you can register via the link above.
UKLA announce the winners of the Our Class Loves This Book Award 2020 AND 2021 – This award asks teachers to explore a book in detail with their classes and encourage children’s creative responses to the chosen book. I am delighted to see Ben Harris and his Year 6 class as the deserved winner of the 2021 award. Ben is such an excellent advocate of reading aloud, reading for pleasure and all aspects of children’s literature and generous in his sharing of knowledge with others it is lovely to see him rewarded. All three winners’ inspiring videos are worth watching.
Finally, some book reviews that caught my eye this week…
Zeki Gets a Checkup by Anna McQuinn illustrated by Ruth Hearson – I love this insightful review by Fabia on Candid Cocoa. It highlights beautifully the importance of excellent picture books such as this one for toddlers as part of the learning experience in addition to being a joy to share.
Bumble & Snug and the Angry Pirates by Mark Bradley – a lovely, informative review by Melanie McGilloway on the Library Mice blog of this new graphic novel for emerging readers plus five fabulous graphic novels recommended by Mark himself.
An Escape in Time (The Time-Seekers series) by Sally Nicholls – this review by Kate Heap on Scope for Imagination is particularly helpful as it looks at the series as a whole and also includes input from Kate’s daughter.
Between Sea and Sky by Nicola Penfold – Where the World Turns Wild was a book I very much enjoyed last year so I was already looking forward to this but this really great review has tempted me further. Mike on This Book is Brilliant also includes a letter from Nicola to a child born on July 8th 2021 to be opened on their 13th birthday which I found poignant yet hopeful. A little like the book itself perhaps.
Little Light by Coral Rumble illustrated by Shih-Yu Lin – this novel told in verse deals with difficult subjects and the hard challenges that some children and families face. Rebecca Simpson-Hargreaves, in her review for Just Imagine, gives examples of how this book could be used in schools and provides a detailed look at the story.
That’s everything for this week and until September. I hope that everyone has a good summer with family and friends. For the teachers who are reading this I will leave you with this wonderful piece by Jackie Morris. It is a beautiful thank you to teachers for all you have done throughout the pandemic from her and also from the rest of us who don’t have quite the same gift with words. Happy summer!
And I know it’s not remotely book related but as a football fan since childhood I’ve found the last couple of weeks exciting, cheering, tense and almost every emotion in between. I confess to singing along loudly to Sweet Caroline in the car. I know…sorry! Here’s something for the footie fans among you to hum along to… I have everything crossed for tomorrow.