Reading Matters – children’s book news

Welcome to this week’s look at what has been happening in the world of children’s books. The highlight has undoubtedly been the 25th World Book Day which was celebrated across the country on Thursday in schools, libraries and bookshops. It was a happy celebration of the joy of reading but the most important aspect is the £1 World Book Day books. Research has shown that for many children these books are the first they will have personally owned and that fact alone makes it all the more meaningful.

What I’m reading…

It’s been a picture book week for me. Nour’s Secret Library by Wafa’ Tarnowska illustrated by Vali Mintzi is a beautiful book with a hopeful message and one that resonates particularly at the moment. Inspired by a true story and the author’s own childhood experience, this story conveys the comfort and hope books and libraries offer in times of struggle. It is published this month by Barefoot Books and I would highly recommend it.

This week also saw the start of the blog tour linked to this year’s Federation of Children’s Book Groups Children’s Book Award. I was delighted to be able be first up on the Picture Book Category and you can read about the inspiration for the kind and tender story of Perdu by Richard Jones and to see some of his early artwork here.

On Wednesday morning we learned of the death of the beloved Shirley Hughes. To me she felt much more than an author and illustrator, she was a comfort, a guide and in many ways an inspiration. A remarkable women who was still creating magic through her books in her nineties. I tried to write a thank you to her, it doesn’t say it all really but it helped to put it down in words. She was a special person.

My good news of the week was that an independent bookshop has opened near my Dad’s house last Saturday. To say I’m pleased would be a bit of an understatement. Of course I had to call in on the way home ‘just for a quick look’…this could get expensive! If you are anywhere near Ashtead in Surrey I can recommend Word on the Street, there is a warm welcome and lots of plans for author events, book clubs etc. and it is wonderful to be able to support a new independent.

News, articles and resources…

Phil Earle’s Bookish Appeal – the lovely Phil Earle, award winning children’s author, is ‘Raising money for the Ukraine’ – would you like his 2023 novel to be DEDICATED to you? Or BECOME a character in it? Donate at the link above and you will be entered into a draw for 3 great prizes.

Shirley Hughes, children’s author and illustrator, dies aged 94 – this Guardian article provides an overview of the much loved author and illustrator’s life and work and includes comments and tributes from other authors.

Shirley Hughes remembered: ‘Everything she shone her attention on turned to gold’ – a selection of beautiful memories of and tributes to Shirley Hughes from the world of children’s literature.

Lucy and Tom’s Day by Shirley Hughes – this is a lovely, thoughtful look at just one of Shirley Hughes’ picture books by Jake Hayes that also provides background to her early career.

Six Re-imagined Fairytale Books for National Tell a Fairy Tale Day – I had not realised that last Saturday, 26th February was National Tell a Fairy Tale Day. However, Rachael Davies on the Perfect Picture Book blog was in the know and has shared some great books in this post. Fairy Tales are lovely to share any day so I hope this link is of value even though it is late.

Mathew Tobin’s Klaus Flugge Prize Longlist Slideshow – Mat Tobin, Senior Lecturer at Oxford Brookes University, has generously created and shared this wonderful resource providing both his own insights in to the illustrations in these excellent picture books and links to background information about the artists and their work. A resource definitely worth exploring.

The Reader Teacher February 2022 Monthly Must Reads – an interesting selection from Scott Evans this month. I have Escape Room on my bookshelf and am looking forward to reading this, Christopher Edge is a writer whose books I enjoy very much. Scott has also created a poster of his favourites which is free to download.

The Children’s Book Award Short List Announced – This shortlist has been announced this week, with children choosing their favourite books from the last two years after a year-long hiatus. Children across the UK are now invited to vote for their favourite of the ten shortlisted books. The deadline for online voting is 12 noon on Friday 27th May, there are three categories and the selection will appeal to a variety of tastes. A lovely award to follow in schools.

No Shelf Control February 2022 Issue – Teacher Dean Boddington’s monthly newsletter for children, teachers and parents is available to download from his blog. The current issue includes a Q&A with award winning author Elle McNicoll.

CLPE Reading for Pleasure 2021-2022 – In 2021 CLPE published the outcomes of a survey that asked teachers to share their experiences of teaching reading during lockdown and the pandemic restrictions. CLPE decided to repeat the survey in January 2022 to find out what were the pressing issues for schools as they emerge from lockdown and return to full class teaching. This report shares the outcomes of that survey and includes valuable insights into how teachers are working to develop reading for pleasure cultures in their schools and classrooms

Letter from a very small country with big neighbours (no, not Russia) – Luīze Pastore is an award-winning Latvian author whose children’s novel, Dog Town, was published by Firefly in 2018. In this new blog she writes for Firefly readers about her horror at the war in Ukraine, and what it means for the children of Latvia, which was itself part of the USSR until 1991.

The Reader Teacher Books I’m Most Excited About Coming Soon March Video – I know February was a short month but it only feels like two minutes ago that Scott Evans was sharing his last selection but here we are again. March titles include Jo Clarke’s Libby and the Parisian Puzzle which is great fun and The Secret Sunshine Project by Benjamin Dean which I’m halfway through and enjoying very much.

BookTrust New Children’s Books We Love – the BookTrust team have selected the books they like best for the month of March. A wide range of titles for toddlers to teens and this regular feature is always helpful.

IBBY Honours List 2022 Nominees – The IBBY Honour List is a biennial selection of outstanding, recently published books, honouring writers, illustrators and translators from IBBY member countries. The UK nominees are Tom Percival for The Invisible, Katya Balen for October, October and Ruth Ahmedzai Kemp for The Raven’s Children.

Blue Peter Book Award Winners – the winners of this award were announced on World Book Day and Best Story category winner was The Last Bear by Hannah Gold and Best Story with Facts category winner was Invented by Animals by Christiane Dorian, illustrated by Gosia Herba. You can find out more about the awards, the winning books and those in the shortlist in the BookTrust article linked above.

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

The River by Tom Percival – Tom Percival has a knack of conveying emotions in his picture books in a gentle and kind fashion and his latest title does this once more. This lovely review by Paul Watson describes it as, “A tale of love, loss and hope – a joy to share with children.”

Split Survival Kit by Ruth Fitzgerald and Dr Angharad Rudkin – A much-needed support for children facing family break up this new book contains practical and positive tips to help children coping with this situation. In her review for LoveReading4Kids Joy Court says, “The positive strategies outlined will be empowering and supportive.” Perhaps a useful book for school libraries.

Onyeka and the Academy of the Sun by Tolá Okogwu – this sounds a bit different. A superhero story set in Nigeria and featuring very powerful hair. Tom Griffith’s review is worth a read, particularly as he describes Onyeka as “definitely going to be one of the most important MG protagonists of 2022.” It is published in June and is a book I will be looking out for.

Furthermoor by Darren Simpson – I do like a book with a great villain and Rich Simpson’s description of Featherly has sold this book to me: “Featherly – one of the most sinister baddies I’ve encountered in many a book recently. Sneaky, sly, evil – he really does pervade the events with a sense of absolute evil – an amazing (but very scary) creation”

That’s all for this week and I do hope you have found it helpful. My reading plans for the weekend include finishing The Secret Sunshine Project by Benjamin Dean, a family story that I am finding engaging due to some interesting characters. Happy reading.

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