Welcome to this week’s look at what has been happening in the world of children’s books. For any new readers of this blog, I publish Reading Matters each weekend, usually on a Saturday morning. It includes a quick look at my own reading for the week plus lots of links to articles, news items, interviews, events, reviews and resources that I think may be useful to those of us with an interest in children’s books such as librarians, teachers, parents and maybe creators of these books too. I do hope you find it helpful.
What I’m reading…
As the daughter of Liverpudlians I was brought up on football and my knowledge and understanding of rugby is ‘limited’ and that’s a kind description really. What I needed was a book! Enter James Hook and David Brayley with the second in their Chasing a Rugby Dream series, Impact. Thanks to this enjoyable story and in particular to the likeable hero, Jimmy, and his mentor, I’m now much better informed. Evidence, if any was needed, that you should never rule out a book because you think the subject matter may not be for you. Aside from the obvious appeal to rugby lovers this is a positive and thoughtful exploration of friendship, family and overcoming difficulties containing some important life lessons. One of which, for me, was that you’re never too old to learn!
Ive just started reading Shadow Town by Richard Lambert and found the first few pages mesmerising and now a little further on I am discovering that this story is beautifully crafted. Toby, the lead character, is interesting too. I shall tell you more about it next week. Meanwhile you may like to read this fascinating interview hosted by Ben Harris to mark the publication of Shadow Town in which Ben asks about Richard Lambert’s writing and the part that poetry plays in his writing life.
News, articles and resources…
National Non Fiction November 2021 – a reminder that this annual celebration of all aspects of information books starts on Monday. There are some helpful resources on the Federation of Children’s Book Groups website and details of a competition for KS1, KS2 and KS3 too. It is well worth a look.
Happy Halloween – Jo Cummins has gathered together the latest titles with a spooky or magical theme from board books for our youngest book fans to those suitable for upper primary age. These are not only for Halloween but would be great for sharing on dark winter evenings.
Children’s books roundup – the best new picture books and novels – another fabulous selection chosen by Imogen Russell Williams. Little Horror by Daniel Peak is on my ‘to read shelf’ so I must move it up the list and I keep reading excellent things about Lionheart Girl by Yaba Badoe.
We need to talk to young children about racism – and here’s the reason why – Laura Henry-Allain MBE, author of My Skin, Your Skin, talks to Book Trust about why it’s so important we talk to all children about race, racism and empowerment.
Why shouldn’t children’s writers talk of refugees, persecution and genocide? – an excellent article by Michael Rosen about the importance of writing about ‘difficult’ subjects and how books may help answer children’s questions.
The Farshore Reading For Pleasure 2021 Award Winners – Launched in 2017, these awards aim to recognise teachers and schools whose research-informed practices make a real difference to children’s reading for pleasure. You can also watch the video of the night to get the latest updates from Teresa Cremin and Cally Poplak, see author Jamila Gavin introducing each award, and hear from the winners themselves.
The Blue Peter Book Awards Longlist Announced – Since 2000 the Blue Peter Book Awards have been recognising and celebrating the best authors, illustrators and reads for children. There are two categories Best Story and Best Book with Facts and some wonderful books included so I don’t envy the judges trying to select the shortlist, to be announced on 11th November.
Sita Brahmachari in conversation with Michael Rosen: Why diversity matters for children and young adults – this free online event hosted by the Centre for Language, Culture and Learning and MA Children’s Literature programme at Goldsmiths, University of London takes place Wednesday 17 November from 5.30 – 7.00 pm. A discussion that will be well worth listening to and it’s an opportunity to celebrate the launch of Michael Rosen’s new book, Sticky McStickstick, illustrated by Tony Ross.
The website offering a new way to find diverse children’s books – interesting article in The Big Issue about a new website offering a facility to search for books by subject or age. Although only in its early days Bookversal.com could be a helpful resource.
CILIP 2021 Honorary Fellowships Announced – Congratulations Prof. Chris Whitty, author Matt Haig and school librarian Amy McKay on their CILIP Honorary Fellowships announced this week, representing the breadth and scope of the information, knowledge management and library profession.
The Waterstones Book of the Year Shortlist – thirteen books have made it to this year’s varied shortlist and I was delighted to see Julia and the Shark by Kiran Millwood Hargrave and Tom de Freston included. This is a remarkable book and if you would like to find out more you may like to read my review for Just Imagine.
Finding Joy in the Unknown: a conversation with Dara McAnulty – Forty five calming and uplifting minutes of your time. In this interview, Dara speaks about his book, Diary of a Young Naturalist and his approach to living a life immersed in and guided by the living world.
Read to Me! (Part 4): Ten Great Non-fiction Books to Read Aloud – another great blogpost by Ben Harris. Ben is a wonderful ambassador for reading aloud in the classroom and his latest post on the subject features some excellent non fiction titles that will spark interest, learning, discussion and enjoyment. Perfectly timed for National Non-Fiction November!
No Shelf Control October edition – thank you to teacher Dean Boddington for creating this great reading newsletter. Dean has generously made it free to download and this month’s includes a range of book reviews and an author interview.
The Reader Teacher October Monthly Must Reads – another useful resource, this time from Scott Evans. His selection for this month includes My Skin, Your Skin (mentioned in the links above) and The False Rose which is receiving a great deal of praise at the moment.
I Saw a Beautiful Woodpecker by Michał Skibiński – this is a lovely guest feature on the Federation of Children’s Book Groups blog by the writer of the childhood journal which has been published as a poignant illustrated memoir. Now nearly 91 years old he sounds genuinely surprised by the interest in the book. I am not surprised at all and if you are interested in finding out more you may like to read my review.
Finally, some book reviews that caught my eye this week…
The Rapping Princess by Hannah Lee illustrated by Allen Fatimaharn – it was the vibrant cover that initially attracted me to this picture book but this lovely review by Aimee Durning for Just Imagine has added to my interest. Aimee says this “is a super rhyming tale that challenges gender stereotypes and celebrates difference.”
Libby and the Parisian Puzzle by Jo Clarke Illustrated by Becka Moore – school librarian Jo Clarke’s debut novel for children is published in March 2022 and this is the first review that I have read. It made me smile. Libby is described as, “Naturally curious and delightfully chatty,” which reminds me of the author! In her review Karen says that the book is “Perfect for fans of Murder Most Unladylike, this is a series that is going to be a huge hit with readers..” this sounds like one to look out for.
Fledgling by Lucy Hope – this is a book that is receiving a great deal of positive attention online at the moment. Kate Heap’s review has tempted me further, ‘The mysteries of this powerful story are carefully revealed bit by bit in a cleverly crafted plot.’
Wrath by Marcus Sedgwick – another book proof that is on my ‘must read soon shelf’ and this review on the Bookbag site singing its praises has whetted my appetite further. It is not often that I read a book described with the phrase, “its bravura style, its chutzpah”! Wrath is published in March next year and is a teen title that I can see many secondary schools stocking in their libraries.
That’s all for this week and I do hope that something among the links and reviews has been interesting or helpful or even both. My weekend plans include finishing reading Shadow Town and sorting out some wonderful non-fiction to recommend next week. Happy reading!