Welcome to this week’s look at what has been happening in the world of children’s books. As the busy end of term takes place across the country no doubt you may have missed some of the news and I hope this collection of links will help you catch up a little.
What I’m reading…
The books that I have to read and review for both The School Librarian journal and Just Imagine have arrived within a couple of days of each other and this week I have concentrated on the picture books. A wide range of types, subjects and narratives were among this selection and it has been interesting to compare styles and approaches. From an interactive board book for toddlers to stories with themes of mental health and well being, empathy and family they have highlighted the importance of picture books for conveying important messages and themes.
Over the last few days I have also read The Hunt for David Berman, a debut by Claire Mulligan which I thoroughly enjoyed. An adventure set during WW2 with a touching bond between two boys from very different families at the centre of its exploration of how war affects families. It is published at the beginning of May so watch out on the blog for more about David’s story soon. I have also finished reading The Infinite by Patience Agbabi and can understand why this book has been so popular. The story is original, Elle is a great character and the representation of neuro-diversity is wide ranging and not stereotypical. I found it an eye-opening read.
News, articles and resources…
Children’s and teens roundup – the best new picture books and novels – I missed this brilliant selection reviewed by Imogen Russell-Williams last week. She has included Nour’s Secret Library, which I think is beautiful, and The Secret Sunshine Project a book I found brimful of positivity and thanks to Imogen’s comments I have added Beyond Belief to my personal wish list.
UKLA Book Awards 2022 Shortlists – there are extremely strong shortlists in each of the three categories this year. Once again small presses dominate and inclusion and diversity are key features of all the lists. There are a host of UKLA debut appearances with Nadia Shireen the only previous winner. These are definitely awards worth keeping an eye on and I don’t envy the judges having to decide between these excellent titles.
An Evening with Michael Rosen – Andersen Press and Nikki Gamble invite you to An Evening with Michael Rosen to celebrate the publication of Rigatoni the Pasta Cat, the latest in the Rosen and Ross series for fledgling readers. They will be discussing ways of supporting readers to become confident, independent and enthusiastic readers at this important phase in their reading development. Tuesday 5th April at 7pm and you can register via the link above. Tickets have been going quickly but there may be some left if you’re quick!
Pepper pots and Kaleidoscopes – The Secret of the Treasure Keepers by A.M. Howell – last week I reviewed this latest book by A M Howell but I had to include this review from Ben Harris. It is much more than a review it is an exploration of the appeal of historical fiction and a simply wonderful reading guide to this lovely book which will be of great value to those working in schools. It gave me a lot to think about and I am tempted to re-read The Secret of the Treasure Keepers now.
The Alligator’s Mouth Award for illustrated early fiction – Ten books have been longlisted for The Alligator’s Mouth Award 2022, which champions both authors and illustrators of highly illustrated children’s fiction. Now in its fourth year, the children’s book prize created by The Alligator’s Mouth children’s bookshop and The Bright Agency, celebrates the best books for 6-8-year-olds.
The Hay Festival Programme for Schools – the festival organisers this week announced the Programme for Schools, with in-person events for pupils in Key Stage 2 on Thursday 26 May and Key Stage 3 andr Key Stage 4 on Friday 27 May. The brilliant line-up includes Piers Torday, Alex Wheatle, Ben Garrod, Nadia Shireen, Cressida Cowell and Jeffrey Boakye. If you can’t make it in person, all the events are also available to watch online on the day, and will be free to watch again on Hay Player.
March Book Blast With Nikki Gamble – if you missed Nikki’s excellent round up of new books for this month it is now available on YouTube. This selection includes picture books, non-fiction and novels all described and displayed to give you a taste of the best books around at the moment.
Library Lives: Katie Kinnear, Camberley – this month’s British Library “Library Life” features a public librarian, Katie Kinnear, Strategic Manager for Development and Support Services at Surrey Library Service. Without our public libraries many more children would be missing out on books and reading so it is, I think, important to share articles such as this one highlighting the work they do. I love Katie’s quote: “You cannot be a half-hearted librarian!”
The Reader Teacher Monthly Must Reads March 2022 – Scott Evans’ choices for last month include The Comet by Joe Todd-Stanton and I think this would be one of my books of the month too. Click on the link to find out more about the other titles and download this month’s poster.
No Shelf Control March Newsletter for Teachers and Parents – Dean Boddington’s latest newsletter includes an interview with Jennifer Killick whose latest book Dread Wood is out now, a selection of poetry to read aloud and other new titles to whet your appetite including Benjamin Dean’s The Secret Sunshine Project which I think is lovely. You can download a PDF version via the link.
The 14 best football books for teenagers – I know that this would have been helpful to me when my own sons were teenagers so I’m sharing this feature from Goal Magazine as I have a feeling it may be helpful to others too.
Waterstones Children’s Book Prize 2022 – huge congratulations to Hannah Gold who is this year’s overall winner with her book, The Last Bear. The other winners were Harry Woodgate for Grandad’s Camper and Ciara Smyth for Not My Problem. Full details of the winners and the shortlists in the three categories can be found in the link above.
‘Out of touch’: children’s authors describe increasing censorship of books on diversity – article by Libby Brooks for the Guardian including comment from authors Juno Dawson, Simon James Green and Elle McNicholl about recent events.
The Reader Teacher Coming Soon Video for April – Scott Evans has chosen his selection of books he’s most excited about for the coming month and has shared them on YouTube. More for our shopping lists!
Danish Company Creates Children’s Book to Make Ukrainian Refugees Feel at Home – a positive story from the Good News Network is the final link this week. Denmark has taken in thousands of refugees from Ukraine and the Mediabrands branch was inspired to write and create a free children’s book for Ukrainian-speakers called “Welcome to Denmark”. The booklet introduces refugees to the country, while highlighting the cultural similarities of the two nations, to help make the new refugees feel safer and more at ease. What a thoughtful idea.
Finally, some book reviews that caught my eye this week…
I Am The Subway by Kim Hyo-eun , translated by Deborah Smith Illustrated by Kim Hyo-eun – I do love the sound of this picture book reviewed by Kate Hitchings for Just Imagine. Kate says that, “This is a book that has huge capacity to build empathy, and to engender an awareness of the lives of others.” A day in the life of a train on the record-breaking Seoul subway, this is a picture book to read aloud, share and discuss.
Onyeka and the Academy of the Sun by Tọlá Okogwu – this book due to be published in June sounds exciting. An action packed new middle-grade super hero title with plenty to recommend it and Fabia Turner’s excellent review has whetted my appetite for a genre that is not normally my first choice. “Themes of acceptance, belonging, family and friendship run throughout the exciting story, and with pacy high-stakes action, deceptive villains and a sequel-demanding ending” In addition the author’s knowledge of Nigeria will ensure that readers gain an understanding of Western Africa.
The Hunt for the Nightingale by Sarah Ann Juckes – I have noticed several people recommending this book online this week so looked up some reviews to find out more. This one on the Bookbag website, always a reliable source of information I think, provides an outline of the plot and more importantly explains why the book works well. Ruth Ng also says, “I have long been of the opinion that children’s books are not, and should not be seen as exclusively for children, and this is a very good example of one of those books that is a moving and poignant read for readers of any age.” Definitely going on my list!
Beyond Belief Written by Alex Woolf Illustrated by Jasmine Floyd – Beyond Belief takes a look at how scientists and inventors have been inspired by science fiction and is a Julia Eccleshare Pick of the Month for March 2022 on LoveReading4Schools.
That’s all for this week. I know that most schools have now broken up for Easter and I hope everyone enjoys a well earned relaxing break if possible. Reading Matters will be taking an Easter break too as I have lots of reading and reviewing to catch up on. Next weekend I am going to the Federation of Children’s Book Group National Conference on Saturday and Sunday and am looking forward to it very much. If any regular readers of this weekly newsletter are going to be there it would be lovely to say hello! Happy Easter and I hope to bring Reading Matters back after the break.