In the absence of my weekly Reading Matters news letter I decided to take the opportunity to tackle my mountains of books that I had not had time to read. Did I succeed? Well, sort of… There are still many wonderful books waiting to be read but I have read some real crackers over the last few weeks so I thought recommend just some of them now.
As a child and now as an adult I do have a particular fondness for historical fiction. Hide and Seek by Robin Scott-Elliot is powerful historical fiction inspired by reality, by the lives of those whose bravery we cannot begin to imagine & whose dedication we should never forget. A Second World War story on an aspect of the war not often covered in fiction for young people, it is one of my favourite reads of 2021 so far. Sometimes fiction can educate as well as entertain and The Royal Rebel: The Life of Suffragette Princess Sophia Duleep Singh by Bali Rai was an enlightening story and one I’m so glad I’ve read. The life of an extraordinary woman who was both a refugee and an ‘outsider’ but also a suffragette and a philanthropist.
Kiran Millwood Hargrave is a writer whose style I greatly admire and both The Way Past Winter and The Island at the End of Everything left a lasting impact on me. Her latest book, published on 2nd September, is a collaboration with her husband, Tom de Freston is Julia and the Shark. It is a stunning book. It’s one you want to talk about with friends as soon as you’ve finished reading it, different in style from Hargrave’s previous books but equally breathtaking. The words and art working together to convey emotions in a special way.
Another stand out book for me over the last few weeks was Black and British – A Short Essential History by David Olusoga, the revised edition for teens. I had been intending to buy the original version of this for some time but while on a day out with my sister we discovered a small independent bookshop in Wadhurst and I couldn’t resist calling in for a browse. I’m so glad I did as this impulse buy has greatly increased my understanding and awareness. This would be an excellent purchase for secondary schools.
Another valuable nonfiction book that I have read recently is This Book is Cruelty Free: Animals and Us by Linda Newbery, an informative and eye opening guide for older children and teens told in an accessible and conversational style. For young children a lovely book that encourages them to notice and appreciate wildlife is Lottie Loves Nature: Bird Alert by Jane Clarke illustrated by James Brown. This is an entertaining blend of fact and fiction full of helpful detail and practical tips.
Also for younger readers The Book Cat by Polly Faber and Clara Vulliamy is pitched perfectly for its target audience and is a delight of a story. It’s sure to convert even the most reluctant to both books and cats! Just right for newly independent readers and I think it would be great read aloud for Years 2 and 3 also. For perfect ‘curl up in the corner with a book’ enjoyment I can recommend How to Be Brave by Daisy May Johnson. Take the best of traditional school stories & 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. Returning to historical fiction I also thoroughly enjoyed Mystery of the Night Watchers by A M Howell which has a relevance today and I found the lead character, Nancy, extremely appealing. Amy Wilson’s latest, Lightning Falls, is an example of a world building that transports the reader to another place. The haunted house in this story really came to life for me and another brilliant character in Valerie.
Regular readers of the blog will know how highly I rate Barrington Stoke and their impressive range of titles. Know My Place is the first of Eve Ainsworth’s books for them that I have read and it is a sensitive story about a teenager searching for home and family. An empathetic read for teens and highly recommended for secondary schools for discussion.
Picture books have been shared with the youngest member of my extended family over the summer which is a lovely excuse for me to read them too. Not that I really need one! What if, Pig? remains a firm favourite and Ready, Steady, School is perfect as she starts Reception class this week. I also have a bit of a soft spot for The Longer the Wait, the Bigger the Hug.
There are several other brilliant books with reviews in the pipeline so I must quickly mention Freeze by Chris Priestley, a horror story which rapidly escalates from a little uncomfortable to downright chilling. It would be perfect for the approaching dark evenings! Also The Puffin Portal by Vashti Hardy, a brilliant steampunk adventure and an entertaining and enjoyable sequel to The Griffin Gate. Also a couple of lovely picture books; The Happy Hedgerow and Lulu’s Sleepover. Watch this space for reviews coming soon.