Welcome to the first of my weekly round ups of children’s book news of the Summer Term. I hope you had a good Easter break and were able to enjoy some of the lovely sunshine. Since the last Reading Matters I have enjoyed a couple of days at the Federation of Children’s Book Groups Annual Conference at Woldingham School in Surrey. A packed programme of events and the chance to meet up with online book buddies in real life for the first time in what feels like forever to me. It was a real treat and a big thank you to the organisers for creating such an enjoyable event.
What I’m reading…
With immaculate timing I received a copy of Tom Palmer’s new book, Resist, the day before the FCBG conference in which Tom was taking part. On the Sunday evening I stayed up late to finish reading it. It is a remarkable and moving story, meticulously researched and relevant today. I tried to do justice to it in my review and would highly recommend getting hold of a copy when it is published in August.
Another brilliant book that I enjoyed reading over the last few weeks is Seed by Caryl Lewis. This has a feel of a modern fable and is so full of wisdom, kindness and hope that I think everyone, children and adults, would gain something from it. My review for Just Imagine will be available to read nearer the publication date of 12th May so I’ll share it next week.
Retuning to historical fiction I also read a great debut by Claire Mulligan, The Hunt for David Berman, a story set during the Second World War featuring spies, the Kinder-transport, family relationships and a friendship between two boys with very different backgrounds. I am pleased to be participating in the blog tour to mark its publication on 5th May and would recommend catching up with the tour which features some interesting guest posts from the author.
Years ago I used to search desperately for football themed books for my sons and this month I read and reviewed a couple of great new children’s books for football fans from Barrington Stoke that would have been just right. Over the last few days I’ve been re-reading The Horse and His Boy by C S Lewis prompted by Chris Lovegrove’s Narniathon21 on his blog. This is the book from the series that I had probably the least vivid memories of from childhood but even in the first few chapters I recognised lines and passages from all those years ago. I find it fascinating how those books we read as a child stay lodged in our minds even when we don’t realise their lasting impact.
News, articles and resources…
David McKee obituary – the much loved creator of Elmer the Patchwork Elephant and Mr Benn died at the age of 87 at the beginning of April. His books have been shared by parents, grandparents and in schools for as long as I can remember. This is a lovely obituary by Julia Eccleshare expressing why his work is so popular.
Open University Reading Schools Programme 2022-2023 – free briefing 4 May – it’s not too late to sign up for this event. Hosted by Teresa Cremin and suitable for school leaders in primary, junior and infants schools. The OU’s year-long Reading Schools Programme will enable you to build a rich reading culture and curricula that will impact on children’s life chances.
Nikki Gamble’s Book Blast for April 2022 – if you missed this event live it’s now available to watch via YouTube. A blast through some of the best books published in April. This video is organised into chapters so you can find the sections that interest you, or watch over a number of sessions.
The Reading Agency’s April Booklist for Children and Young People: Autism – the Reading Agency have worked with Autistic Uk on the creation of this list of books for children and young people written predominantly by autistic authors and representing a diverse range of experiences, stories and voices. The list can be downloaded via the link above.
Jhalak Children’s & Young Adult Prize – shortlists announced – The shortlists for this year’s Jhalak Prizes, the nation’s premier awards for British and British-resident writers of colour, have now been revealed. The winners will be announced on Thursday 26 May. You can see both the shortlists and the long lists via the link above.
How school leaders can get the most out of their libraries – an article by Elizabeth Hutchison for TES highlighting the many benefits of a thriving school library for the school community and the role of SLT in ensuring that this happens.
Windrush Learning Resource for Schools – Seven Stories (the National Centre for Children’s Books) has put together a new Windrush learning resource which highlights the contributions of Caribbean and British Caribbean writers to British children’s literature. The resource features John Agard, Grace Nichols, Valerie Bloom and Grace Hallworth .
CLPE An Evening with Michael Rosen – to open the celebrations for its 50th anniversary CLPE is hosting an evening with Michael Rosen. Michael has just published What is a Bong Tree?, a collection of his articles written and talks given over the last five decades and will be performing some of his poems. A ‘real life’ event taking place in London.
Books for Topics Updated Year Group Book Lists – these updated lists include more graphic novels, some hot-off-the-press new titles, a few more dyslexia friendly books, more laugh-out-loud choices in upper KS2 and some brand new high-interest non-fiction. Well worth a browse for ideas.
Non-Fiction or Not Non-Fiction – that is the Question… by Mini Grey – this is a great guest post by Mini Grey on the Picture Book Den blog. It prompts questions about the labels we apply to books and provides an insight in to the creation of her new book, The Greatest Show on Earth. Which, incidentally, is now on my shopping list. I also really like Mini’s favourite ‘non-fiction’ picture books.
The Branford Boase Award Shortlist Announced – this is another fantastic shortlist from the organisers of this award which recognises both new talent and the role of the editor. From a longlist of 24, the judges have chosen eight to shortlist, making this the longest shortlist in the award’s history. As ever, the subject matter is very broad and there are books for readers aged 7 to 17: family dramas, fantasy adventure, science fiction and anarchic comedy. More information about the shortlist and the award itself is available on the official website linked above.
Tom Palmer Poster Pack – the ever helpful Tom Palmer has made a special pack of posters, bookmarks and signed material linked to his historical fiction available to schools. You can sign up to receive this via the link above.
Jackie Morris Talks About Mrs Noah’s Song – I love this sneaky glimpse of the new book due out in June from Jackie Morris and James Mayhew. Mrs Noah is one of my favourite picture book characters and I think this video is one and a half soothing minutes of gentleness.
CILIP Famous Faces Posters – Author, naturalist and conservationist Dara McAnulty has given his support for libraries by joining the CILIP Famous Faces Campaign. This campaign poster is free to download and display in your library along with previous posters via the link.
The Meaning of Life(stories) Roy James Blog for Just Imagine – I’m very much enjoying Roy’s regular blog posts for Just Imagine and this one about biographies for children is fascinating and gave me a great deal to think about. Nikki Gamble thought so too and her own reflection on the subject added as a postscript is equally interesting.
The Reader Teacher April Must Reads – another tempting selection from Scott Evans this month including Mini Grey’s The Greatest Show on Earth mentioned in the non-fiction post above. There is a free poster to display available to download too.
The School Library Association Member Meet-up: Primary Schools – this event takes place on Thursday 12th May from 3.30pm – 4.30pm and is free for SLA members. Whatever your primary school library space looks like and whatever your role this is an opportunity to meet other members online to share ideas, challenges and successes.
Longlist Announced for 2022 SLA Information Book Award (IBA) – Now in its twelfth year, the IBA aims to emphasise the importance of non-fiction by highlighting and celebrating the high standard of children’s information books. The awards are divided into three age categories, judged by a panel of educators. Children will then also have the opportunity to vote for their favourites in each group, as well as their favourite overall, to determine four additional Children’s Choice winners. You can see the books listed in each of the three categories via the link.
Finally, some book reviews that caught my eye recently…
Don’t Ask the Dragon by Lemm Sissay illustrated by Greg Stobbs – Rachael at Picture Book Perfect has hosted a fascinating interview with Greg Stobbs alongside her review of this new picture book. This is well worth a read as it provides an insight into the collaborative nature of creating picture books and a lovely look at the early drafts of the illustrations.
The Boy who Grew a Tree by Polly Ho-Yen; illustrated by Sojung Kim-McCarthy – another wonderful review by Ben Harris. The themes of this book, caring for our environment and each other, are important ones and as Ben says “I am just so pleased to read a short novel of this quality and thoughtfulness aimed at the younger junior age-range.” He has also included some excellent prompts to encourage children to think and talk about the story.
Atlas of Amazing Architecture: The most incredible buildings you’ve (probably) never heard of by Peter Allen – this is a brilliant and detailed review by Jo Bowers for Just Imagine. It provides information about content, use, audience suitability and much more and the book itself sounds excellent. Probably perfect for primary school libraries.
If You Read This – Kereen Getten – although not published until September this sounds like a book to make a note of for the future. Although it covers the subject matter of grief and loss this description by Karen in her review made me smile, “At 192 pages, If You Read Me is short but perfectly formed”
The Good Turn by Sharna Jackson – this contemporary mystery published next month sounds great. Veronica Price’s review reveals just enough to whet our appetite without giving too much away. Veronica says, “I utterly applaud Sharna Jackson for engaging readers, young and old, with a compelling and captivating narrative which delivers such a powerful message, prompting us all to look beyond our privilege and ally ourselves with those who need a voice.”
That’s everything for this week and I hope something here has been helpful to you. The bank holiday weekend should give us all a chance to relax and catch up on some reading. I hope so anyway! Happy bank holiday weekend and ‘see’ you next Saturday.