Welcome to the latest round up of what has been happening in the world of children’s books recently. The highlight of this week has been Empathy Day with it trending on Twitter and many sharing thoughts, activities, suggested books and their Empathy resolutions. I’ve included a link to the official website below so you can catch up with what you may have missed.
A personal highlight for me this week was Nikki Gamble’s Audience with Frank Cottrell-Boyce who has long been one of my favourite children’s authors. He is just as funny, entertaining and kind as you would imagine from his stories.
What I’m reading…
Well I finally managed to read While the Storm Rages by Phil Earle and it is just as special as I hoped it would be. It is wise and kind, utterly believable, both hilariously funny and heartbreakingly sad in the turn of a page. There are children and animals you grow to love, friendships made and tested, courage found and lessons learned, this is a wonderful book and a perfect follow up to the award winning When the Sky Falls.
This week in preparation for the Frank Cottrell-Boyce event mentioned above I have been reading Frank’s latest book, Noah’s Gold and it is an absolute joy. It’s been a welcome distraction for me this week and has actually made me ‘laugh out loud’ in many places during the story. A wry look at our dependence on and use of technology and full of kindly wisdom about family relationships and friendship. And food! I have nearly finished it and think it’s a real mood lifter of a book.
Last week I took part in the The Boy Who Grew A Tree blog tour timed to coincide with National Children’s Gardening Week. This is such a lovely book, I enjoyed it very much and think its kind, inclusive and thoughtful fable like quality makes it a great read aloud for KS1/Lower KS2.
Although I had seen others mention the popular series by Jen Carney, The Accidental Diary of B.U.G., I knew little about it other than its appeal to fans of Tom Gates. Over the long bank holiday weekend I decided to put that right and read the third in the series, Sister Act. From the first page I understood why these books are popular. The first person narrative by the ever optimistic Billie is appealing and full of humour and the illustrations include witty detail too. However what I did not anticipate was the kind and inclusive nature of the story which promotes tolerance and understanding in a gentle way. A brilliant book to highlight during Pride Month. The portrayal of Billie’s family, her two mums and the theme of adoption are all included in a natural and realistic manner. I’m converted and must read the first two books soon.
I have recently discovered the new publiser, Neon Squid, who are creating stylish non-fiction to engage curious children in a variety of topics. You may like to read my reviews of two of their titles published in April, The Book of Sisters and The Hospital. Roy James’ recent blogpost for Just Imagine, linked below, prompted me to review some recent books from small publishers, both fiction and nonfiction and suitable for a wide age range.
News, articles and resources…
Life-changing Libraries – first up on this week’s links as it’s a subject I feel strongly about. This week saw the release of a report on the impact of our Children’s Laureate, Cressida Cowell’s, Life Changing Libraries initiative. As Cressida ends her term as Laureate we owe her a debt of thanks for all she has done to highlight the importance of primary school libraries. The report, the accompanying video and the Book Trust round up, all available via the link above, are important and I hope they are shared widely.
Cressida Cowell renews call for £100m investment in primary school libraries – article in the Guardian reporting on the Life Changing Libraries impact report and quotes from Cressida Cowell.
Empathy Day 2022 – Thursday 9th June saw schools and libraries across the country mark Empathy Day in a variety of ways. The excellent website includes activities, book lists, resources and videos which enable us to turn every day in to an empathy day.
Book Trust: Books We Love for June – every month the Book Trust team select their favourite books in different age categories. This month’s books include While the Storm Rages, All to Play For and Eye Spy, all of which I would recommend too. I’ve added Smile Out Loud and One Time to my wish list.
The Reader Teacher: Books I’m Most Excited About for June – Scott Evans has put together his ‘coming soon’ selection for this month and this includes non-fiction and picture books alongside novels. I was pleased to see The Encyclopedia of STEM Words from b small publishing featured as I think this would be excellent for school libraries.
Children’s and teens roundup: the best new chapter books – Marcus Rashford channels Scooby-Doo, more girls solve mysteries, while two historical young Black Britons join forces in theatreland in books chosen by Kitty Empire.
Vote in the InspiREAD 2022 book awards – Nottinghamshire Education Library Service librarians have shortlisted some of their favourite books for the second InspiREAD awards. There will be a winner in each of the three categories: Picture Books, Shorter Books and Longer Novels. You can see the shortlisted books and find out more via the link above.
Being a good ally with A.M. Dassu, author of FIGHT BACK – Wednesday 15th June, 11am, hosted by Scholastic. Join award-winning author A.M. Dassu for a workshop exploring identity, freedom of expression and allyship. In this session you will be introduced to Dassu’s new upper middle grade novel, Fight Back, and examine its themes. This event is recommended for ages 10 and above.
Scottish Book Trust: Graphic Novels for Children – Looking for children’s graphic novel recommendations? Look no further! This list compiled by Marianne Doherty for Scottish Book Trust contains some of her favourite graphic novel and comic book reads, ideal for readers looking for new and exciting titles.
Small Publishers are a Big Deal – another great blog for Just Imagine by Roy Moss, this time highlighting the important contribution smaller publishers make to the world of children’s books. Some of my own favourite publishers feature in this article and there are links to tempting book collections to explore.
WIN £1,000/€1,000 to help your school rebuild their library – National Book Tokens are giving five schools £1,000/€1,000 of National Book Tokens each, plus membership to the School Library Association. Nominate your school via the link above , and if yours is one of the five winning entries, you’ll also win a £100/€120 National Book Token for yourself! Closing date 29th July.
Refugee Week 2022 event: in conversation with Tom Palmer – the National Literacy Trust invites teachers and pupils to join them on Monday 20 June from 10.30 to 11.00 as they discuss with Tom how to approach writing sensitively and appropriately about the experiences of refugees, and how we can offer support to them. Tom’s historical fiction has powerfully addressed the impact of war and experiences of displacement, notably in his acclaimed title After the War, and his new book, Resist.
Using illustration to develop reading and writing: free online CPD – the British Library are hosting this free virtual event on Wednesday 22nd June from 4 -5pm for primary teachers. Featuring Charlotte Hacking, Learning and Programmes Director at the Centre for Literacy in Primary Education, Yu Rong, illustrator and Viviane Schwarz, writer and illustrator, it will be full of ideas to inspire young authors and illustrators.
Stream the 2022 Yoto Carnegie Greenaway Awards Ceremony – the 2022 Yoto Carnegie Greenaway Medals and Shadowers’ Choice Awards Ceremony will be available to stream online on Thursday 16 June at 12pm. Hosted by poet and author, Dean Atta, live from the British Library, Dean will be joined by this year’s Chair of Judges, Jen Horan with special speeches and Q&A’s with the Medal winners.
Five games for children to play in their school library – Library consultant Sarah Pavey shares five simple games that primary school children can play in their library that encourage reading – even for those less interested in books. Sarah has written a book on this subject and runs training courses through the School Library Association which you may be interested in too. Her website has more details.
Finally, some book reviews that caught my eye this week…
Keeping the Words Safe: The Keeper of Wild Words by Brooke Smith – this picture book highlighting both the relationship between a child and a grandparent and the importance of nature described by Mary Esther Judy as, “A gorgeous book to ignite curiosity and hope; encouraging, happy, tender, warm and wonderful” sounds delightful.
The Secret Life of Birds by Moira Butterfield and Vivian Mineker – like many others I enjoy watching from my kitchen window as a variety of birds visit our bird feeders. Having read Sue Magee’s review of this new book I think, although chiefly suitable for the 7-11 audience, I may learn something from reading it too. “It’s a fun book to read and best of all, you don’t feel as though you’ve been educated when you turn the final page. It’s a book which could set a child up with an interest which could stay with them throughout their life.”
Zo and the Forest of Secrets by Alake Pilgrim – another great book from Knights Of and another great review by Reading Teacher, Ben Harris. Described by Ben as a ‘magic-realist novel’ this review has tempted me and Ben’s suggested points for discussion are both thoughtful and interesting. This is a really helpful review for teachers for use in the classroom and for school librarian for book club conversations.
When Shadows Fall by Sita Brahmachari – it’s always good when someone you know personally recommends a book to you so I’m sharing Helen Morgan’s review for Just Imagine of this new YA title. Helen describes this story as “one of the most powerful and moving books that I have read for a long time” and recommends it for Yr9+. I have earmarked it for part of my summer reading.
That’s everything for this week and it has turned into a bit of a bumper issue! Next week we have the Carnegie and Kate Greenaway Award announcements to look forward to. I confess to a favourite for the Carnegie so will have my fingers crossed. On Tuesday our Surrey Branch of the School Library Association is holding our summer meeting at Heath Books on the subject of non-fiction in the school library so I will let you know how that goes next week. Happy reading!