Reading Matters – children’s book news

Welcome to the first Reading Matters newsletter of 2022 and I hope that everyone had a happy and healthy Christmas holiday. This week’s round up includes both a look back at the best of 2021 and a preview of some books we can look forward to at the start of this new year. There are events and resources too so why not settle down and explore.

What I’m reading…

Before we get stuck into a new year of reading I did have a look back at some of the wonderful books that I enjoyed most last year. You can find out more about them in 2021 – A Year in Children’s Books. One beautiful illustrated book stood out for me last year and I do think that Once Upon A Tune: Stories from the Orchestra by James Mayhew deserves a place in every primary school as it is both inspirational and enjoyable.

Over the Christmas break I caught up with some books that I had been intending to read for ages. Untwisted: the story of my writing life by Paul Jennings was a fascinating read and contains excellent advice for would be writers and also for educators trying to instil a love of reading and writing in their pupils. Keeper of Secrets by Sarah J Dodd is a beautiful and sensitive story exploring our relationship with wild animals and how nature can sometimes help to heal grief. A debut published in September 2021 with teaching resources available on the publishers’ website I think this would be excellent for upper primary children.

This week I have read Yusuf Azeem is Not a Hero by Saadia Faruqi. Published to coincide with the commemoration of the twentieth anniversary of the 9/11 terrorist attacks, this is a powerful and important book. Excellent for KS3 and YR6 this book demonstrates the value of writing about recent historical events for young people to aid their understanding.

All of these books plus those included in the reviews section below can be purchased online via

The highlight of my week was definitely Nikki Gamble’s Audience With Kate DiCamillo. One of my favourite authors she has a knack of conveying emotion and humanity in a few well chosen words. Listening to her was wonderful and I gave up writing down all the quotable things she said as it all resonated with me, and with everyone else attending I think. I will highlight one particular phrase which I recognised personally and maybe you will too, ‘I feel most like myself when I’m reading.’ Thank you to Nikki for making this special evening possible.

News, articles and resources

BooksForTopics Books of the Year 2021 – the community of primary teachers, TAs, librarians, authors and children’s book lovers were asked to vote for their favourite children’s books published in 2021 and the winners were announced last week. There are several categories and this is a fabulous selection for the primary age group.

Discover CLPE staff’s favourite reads in 2021 – another wonderful range of books selected by the experts at the Centre for Literacy for Primary Education. The list is free to download and includes helpful summaries of the titles too.

The Reader Teacher January 2022 Books I’m Most Excited About – now looking ahead, Scott Evans previews some of the ‘middle grade’ books due to be published this month in his Coming Soon video and the year is getting off to a cracking start!

Costa Book Award Winners Announced – on 4th January the winners of the the different categories were announced and Crossings by Manjeet Mann is The Costa Children’s Book Award 2021 Winner. I have read several excellent reviews of this verse novel and hope to read it soon. You can find out who won the other categories and view the shortlists via the link above.

Tom Palmer’s Holocaust Day Memorial Day Resources – Holocaust Memorial Day takes place on 27th January and award winning author Tom Palmer has collaborated with the Literacy Trust to produce a range of free resources including videos and worksheets etc. The resources are designed to be used throughout the week beginning Monday 24 January 2022, and are suitable for use with students aged 9 to 14 (Upper Key Stage 2 and Key Stage 3). More information is available via the link above.

Narniathon21: A Jovial Comedy – I have thoroughly enjoyed reading and participating in the series of posts discussing The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe over the last week or so as part of this initiative organised by Chris Lovegrove. The link above takes you to Chris’s review and summary of this first book in the Narnia series. If you are interested in finding out more I would also recommend this post #Narniathon21: Through the door and the discussion in the comments which is fascinating. January sees the reading and discussion of Prince Caspian.

New research Girls: The Reluctant Girl Readers – the National Literacy Trust in partnership with Estée Lauder have produced a report on an aspect of reading that does not always receive attention. Data from their 2021 Annual Literacy Survey, in which 21,696 girls aged 8 to 18 from across the UK participated, indicates that more than 2 in 5 (44.1%) of them don’t enjoy reading. For more background and fuller details please use the link above.

January Book Blast with Nikki Gamble – on Monday 10th January at 7pm catch up with the children’s books out in January with Nikki Gamble and there is the chance to win some lovely books too. Registration is free via the link above.

Book Trust: 10 films based on children’s books due in 2022 – some favourite children’s books are being turned into movies in 2022, find out which ones via the link plus there are versions being made for TV too.

Book Trust: New Children’s Books We Love – every month, the Book Trust team review dozens of books for children and teenagers. Here are the ones they like best in January divided into age group categories.

The Most Popular Manga for High School Students – school librarian Lucas Maxwell’s article for Book Riot highlights the titles that are most popular with his students from age 11 or 12 right up to 18.

Mr Dilly Meets – Christopher Lloyd and Jenny Pearson – a date for your diary. On Wednesday, January 19th 11:00 AM – 12:00 PM a free event for schools. If you are unable to watch live, the event will also be available to view directly afterwards on the MR DILLY YOU TUBE channel. You can find our more about the event and register via the link above.

Firefly Press publishes Manon Steffan Ros’ The Blue Book of Nebo – the English adaptation of this award winning book was published this week and this article has pushed it to the top of my reading pile.

Jericho Prize Finalists Announced – The Jericho Prize is a new prize for unpublished and self-published Black-British writers. The five finalists in two categories, picture book (4+) and short chapter book (7-9) are Cabbi Charles, Diane Ewen, Seymour Lavine, Ellah Dinnall and Abimbola Salami. The 2021 award winners will be announced on 27 January 2022. You can meet the finalists in the video via the link.

An Evening with Anne Fine – Nikki Gamble, David Fickling and Old Barn Books invite you to an Evening with Anne Fine on 1st February at 7pm. Anne has two new novels publishing in February: Shades of Scarlet, published by David Fickling Books and Aftershocks published by Old Barn Books. The webinar is free and you can register via the link.

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

The Queen in the Cave by Julia Sarda – Mélanie McGilloway reviews this picture book and hosts an interview with its creator in this fascinating blogpost. Published in October 2021 I had missed this book but the peep provided looks stunning and it is so interesting to learn about the story behind the art.

Meg and Merlin: Making Friends by Tanya Landman & Sonia Albert – the latest title by Tanya Landman for Barrington Stoke was published this week. In my experience ‘pony books’ are popular in school libraries and Kate Heap says in her review: “This lovely story is perfect for horse lovers and anyone who has a dream.’’ One for school librarians’ to buy lists!

The Secret of the Treasure Keepers by A.M. Howell – regular readers of the blog will know that I have a soft spot for historical fiction and I very much like the sound of this. Veronica Price says, “You rapidly lose yourself in the mystery, making it very difficult to put the book down or cease to think about the characters and their plight even when you have to break away and return to everyday reality!” This author’s previous books have been immensely popular with teachers in the classroom and this sounds like another winner.

The Sad Ghost Club Volume 1 by Lize Meddings – there has been chat online about the popularity of this graphic novel in secondary school libraries so this review caught my attention. The first book was published in December with the second due out this month. The Sad Ghost Club community has over half a million followers on instragram so it clearly has that special something. I’m tempted to get hold of a copy now. The LoveReading4Kids review linked above tells you more.

That’s everything for this week and I hope you have found something among the links of interest or helpful. My reading weekend is starting with Laura Wood’s adaptation of Pride and Prejudice for Barrington Stoke. I hope you have a happy weekend with some time for reading. A reminder that all the books featured in this newsletter can be bought on the website. Happy reading!

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3 Responses to Reading Matters – children’s book news

  1. Calmgrove says:

    Belated but huge thanks, Anne, for mentioning the Narniathon, which is continuing to get interest and responses, and congratulations on another packed round-up. I was in both interested in and anxious about the feature mentioning screen adaptations of well-known and loved fiction — Hollywood can be so hit-and-miss about staying faithful to the text and, particularly, avoiding dumbing down for North American audiences. And yet *another* adaptation of the Peter Pan story, really?! sigh

    Liked by 2 people

    • alibrarylady says:

      It’s a pleasure, Chris your Narniathon has been a recent highlight for me and I’m grateful to you for the idea and the fascinating conversation that has ensued. I quite agree with you about Peter Pan again. Unfortunately the word Pinocchio brings back memories of childhood trauma from the Disney version so I’ll probably be giving any further adaptations of that a miss too!

      Liked by 2 people

      • Calmgrove says:

        I remember seeing bits of an atmospheric Czech version of Pinocchio filmed in the streets of Prague which looked really good, but more than that I can’t remember. As for the Peter Pan films, apart from the Disney animation we’ve had ‘Hook’ with Dustin Hoffman as the Captain, a live action ‘Peter Pan’ with Jason Isaacs as Hook, and loads of Disney Tinkerbell spin-offs. My favourite version though is ‘Peter Pan Goes Wrong’ by the fantastic Goes Wrong crew.

        I must get on with reading Prince Caspian for the Narniathon, I suppose, times a-pressing, but first I have a review of a great Jan Mark fiction to review…

        Liked by 2 people

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