“I think a successful book is one that leaves the reader in a slightly different place from where they were before they read it.”Marcus Sedgwick
Welcome to this week’s look at what has been happening in the world of children’s books.
What I’m reading…
Sunday 13th November in addition to being Remembrance Sunday was also World Kindness Day. One of the books that I had received to review for Just Imagine was Be The Change: Be Kind by Marcus Sedgwick illustrated by Thomas Taylor. It is a thoughtful guide to kindness in society. Practical, informative and optimistic it provides readers with the tools to use kindness in everyday life and to make a difference and I would highly recommended it for ages 9+. Only days after I wrote this review we learned the desperately sad news that Marcus had died suddenly. I always felt that his gentle kindness and understanding of others came across in his writing. He will be so missed.
I also read and reviewed two picture books for Just Imagine. First up is one that may well become a Christmas classic. We Disagree About This Tree by Ross Collins sees Bear and Mouse reunited and preparing for the festivities. Bold and bright illustrations and bags of humour give this lovely book an instant appeal however alongside the fun is an important message about learning to compromise. The Clown Said No by Mischa Damjan has just been reissued with new illustrations by Torben Kuhlmann sixty years after it was first published and contains a theme as relevant today as then. There are times when it is important to stand up for your rights and remain true to what you know is right for you and this story illustrates this rather tenderly for children.
A reading highlight for me has been Children of the Stone City, the latest novel by award winning author Beverley Naidoo. Set in a world where Adam and Leila and their friend Zak live as Nons under the Permitted ruling class this powerful story explores themes of prejudice, discrimination, grief and human rights. Although the world created is fictitious it has its inspiration in many societies today. Threaded through the drama is the importance of music and writing in offering solace and encouragement in difficult situations. An excellent book for discussion and I was disappointed not to be able to attend Nikki Gamble’s recent audience with Beverley Naidoo and the linked book club conversation.
News, articles and resources…
One in seven state primary schools does not have a designated library space – this week the National Literacy Trust published a new report into libraries and were in Parliament with the Primary School Library Alliance. Founded in November 2021 by the National Literacy Trust and Penguin Random House UK, the Alliance works with its flagship partners to address the chronic lack of investment in primary school libraries and bring together relevant parties to help solve this urgent issue. The Alliance aims to transform 1,000 primary school libraries by 2025. This new report on the current situation is vital reading for all of us involved with children’s books in any capacity.
Books For Keeps November 2022 – the latest issue of this excellent online journal is a special one. In addition to the regular Beyond the Secret Garden feature and reviews there is a Christmas Book Gift Guide and a Books of the Year selection. Plus wonderful interviews with authors Anna McQuinn and MG Leonard, a feature by illustrator Harry Woodgate, and a nonfiction special from Sue McGonigle. All in all a must read for children’s book lovers.
Emma Suffield Q&A with Author Andy Shepherd – the latest in school librarian Emma Suffield’s series if interviews is with Andy Shepherd, author of the popular The Boy Who Grew Dragons series. Discover which books were Andy’s childhood favourites, read her writing tips and the inspiration for her stories.
Big Book, Little Cook: A celebration of children’s cookbooks – another brilliant blogpost by Roy James for Just Imagine. This one includes discussion on how you can incorporate cookbooks into different curriculum areas in the classroom. For many children these books can introduce them to experiences from around the world and Roy has ideas and tips to help.
Mindfulness books for children are a runaway publishing trend – this article in the Guardian by Amelia Hill explores the data which shows that to date this year, there have been 18% more children’s titles published in the genre of mental health and anxiety than this time in 2021.
The Reader Teacher 2022 Christmas Gift Giving Guides – Scott Evans has created lists of books for different ages and within each list books are divided into sections such as classics, new titles, poetry and festive fiction. An excellent place to start your Christmas shopping!
Mr Dilly Presents Bumper Christmas Special – Mr Dilly Meets some of the biggest names in Children’s Books on 6th December 11.00am – 12.15pm in this FREE Festive Fun packed Author event for Schools. There will be plenty of chat, readings the author’s Christmas books, a chance to have your school’s questions put to the guests and a Christmas Quiz that all the authors and your classroom can play along with at the same time.
Book Trust: What to Read After… Horrible Histories – Once someone has read all the books in the iconic Horrible Histories series, where to turn next? The combination of Terry Deary’s gory facts and Martin Brown’s humorous illustrations is hard to beat. But there are other books that might keep a young history buff entertained and the Book Trust team have put together a great variety within their selection.
Mat Tobin: Whose worlds are we sharing with children? – this blogpost by Mathew Tobin, Lecturer in English and Children’s Literature at Oxford Brookes University, explores representation and authenticity in children’s literature and provides us with much to think about. Paired with the publication last week of CLPE’s most recent Reflecting Realities Report this is an important read.
Poetry By Heart 2022 -2023 Competition – Poetry By Heart, the national poetry speaking competition for schools, is celebrating its 10th anniversary in 2023. The competition is open now and an invitation to take part has been sent to every primary and secondary school in England. Registration, participation and competition entry are free, and the Poetry By Heart website offers a wealth of resources and support materials for teachers including a wide range of suggested poems, classic, contemporary and diverse, including many written by living poets. The grand finale of the 2023 competition is a special celebration taking place at Shakespeare’s Globe on Monday 26th June. The website is excellent and full of useful information and is a valuable resource for schools. There is a helpful step by step guide to the competition here.
Planning a poetry curriculum – another helpful blogpost from HFL Education (formerly Herts for Learning) which links well with the Poetry By Heart information above.
Foyles Books of the Year shortlists 2022 – there are three Foyles Books of the Year 2022 shortlists: Fiction, Non-Fiction, and Children’s. There are six books in the Children’s category and I was particularly pleased to see The Comet, one of my favourite picture books of the year and the wonderful Tyger included.
Developing a Culture of Reading for Pleasure 3: RfP Pedagogy – Methods and Practice – the third in this helpful series of blogposts by Debbie Thomas for the Literacy Hive explores ways to support and encourage Reading for Pleasure in the classroom. There is a link to a wonderful primary school library example too.
Nen & the Lonely Fisherman by Ian Eagleton and James Mayhew wins major award – On November 15th 2022, Nen and the Lonely Fisherman was awarded the inaugural Children’s & YA Polari Prize. This is the only LGBTQi+ award in the UK and one of the biggest awards of its kind in the world. In this lovely post on James’ blog he writes about how much this award means.
Children’s perspectives on becoming absorbed in stories – a free online Open University seminar taking place on 23rd November 3-4pm. What does story reading feel like in the upper primary years, when it is still a relatively new skill? What embodied sensations are involved in becoming absorbed, “lost in a book”?
Finally, some book reviews that caught my eye this week…
Colours, Colours Everywhere by Julia Donaldson Illustrated by Sharon King-Chai – at the moment I’m on the look out for picture books for a new addition to our family and this sounds perfect. A vibrant rhyming story, beautiful landscapes with animals of all colours, foldouts, flaps to lift and holes to peep through on every page. Jo Bowers’ gorgeous review for Just Imagine has completely sold this to me.
Every Word Tells A Story by Tom Read Wilson Illustrated by Ian Morris – the review blog tour to mark National Non-Fiction November continues and this is a helpful review by Jo Cummins of a book that would be valuable both in homes, libraries and classrooms. A book that covers the origins of over one hundred words and is “a perfect book for young wordsmiths, encouraging kids and adults alike to have fun whilst learning about language.”
Where The River Takes Us – Lesley Parr – this lovely review by Karen on Bonkers About Books has made me extremely nostalgic for the 70s. Although not published until March 2023 this is going on my wish list now. “Whether you’re a child who wants to dive into a heart-warming adventure, or a grown-up of a ‘certain’ age who wants to relive their childhood, Where The River Takes Us is the book for you.”
That’s everything for this week and I hope that something here has been useful to you. Happy reading.