Reading Matters – children’s book news

Welcome to this week’s round up of what has been happening in the world of children’s books. The highlights over the last few days included the announcements of the 2023 Read for Empathy collections and the judging panel for this year’s CLiPPA award, plus shortlist announcements for well known awards.

What I’m reading…

Despite by best intentions I have not had the time to make inroads into my huge to be read pile this week. However, I’m now three quarters of the way through the 500 plus pages of Laura Woods’ new YA book, The Agency for Scandal and am enjoying it immensely. It has been described online as perfect for fans of Bridgerton, which I confess I haven’t watched so can’t comment. To me it reads like Jane Austen with added oomph! The mix of historical mystery and romance is enthralling and the feminist thread running through the plot adds depth to the reading experience. Although I’ve not yet finished I know the fourteen year old me would have adored this. It’s proving to be a lovely escape for the adult me too.

Although I have not managed to read much I was determined to watch Nikki Gamble’s Audience With Shaun Tan last night. After a battle through roadworks, a broken down lorry and huge traffic jams on the M25 I made it in time and am so glad that I did. This conversation was much more than a chat about books ranging from the creative process, the relationship between text and illustration on the page and thought provoking comment about our current world situation. I’m still thinking about Shaun Tan’s words.

News, articles and resources…

Featuring death and grief in children’s books can equip them with skills to navigate emotional terrain – article in the Guardian by author Nova Weetman explores the way in which children’s books enable young readers to process difficult emotions in a safe space.

Boosting Students’ Literacy Skills With Help From the School Librarian – excellent article by school library consultant, Elizabeth Hutchinson, highlighting the importance of collaboration between school librarians and teachers to improve literacy levels. There are helpful links and practical suggestions.

Love My Books Newsletter February 2023 – the latest issue of this regular newsletter features an interview with author and storyteller Chitra Sounder, stories and rhymes at bedtime, how to make a story sack and this month’s Book in Focus, Big Green Crocodile by Jane Newberry illustrated by Carolina Rabei. This is an excellent resource for both families and educators.

CLiPPA 2023 Judges Announced – This year’s CLiPPA sees the 20th anniversary of this celebration of new poetry for children. Former Children’s Laureate Chris Riddell OBE, who says we are in “a golden age of children’s poetry” is to chair the judging panel which also includes former winner, poet Valerie Bloom MBE. See who else is on the panel and find out more about this award via the CLPE website above. You may also be interested in this article in Books for Keeps about the announcement.

2023 Read For Empathy Collections Announced – Selected by expert judges, the 65 books for 3-16-year-olds, chosen for their empathy-building insights. The primary collection features 40 books for 3-11-year-olds; the secondary collection has 25 books for 12-16-year-olds. They include picture books, novels, poetry, non-fiction, graphic and verse novels. Guides for both Primary and Secondary are free to download from the website and there is notable diversity – over 45% of the contributors are people of colour, and many neurodivergent and LGBTQ+ authors. There is a vast array of resources, information, interviews and links available on the website so I would recommend making time for a browse.

Blue Peter’s Amazing Authors Competition – Children ages 5-15 are invited to write a short story or poem, and the winner will have their words turned into an audiobook by Tom Fletcher. Entries should be an original short story or poem in under 400 words, which captures the idea of adventure and features exciting characters and the closing date is 8th March. Full details on the BBC website above.

The Mo Siewcharran Prize 2023 – Hachette UK’s The Future Bookshelf is running the Mo Siewcharran Prize for its fourth year to help discover unpublished fiction writers from Black, Asian, mixed heritage and minority ethnic backgrounds. For 2023, the prize will be hosted by Hachette Children’s Group who are looking for fiction writing in the picture book genre. Submissions are now open and close on 8th May.

Books That Help – last week I included a link to the latest category, Community and since then the website has moved to a new address and you can now find it on the link above.

A Different Kind of Streaming by Roy Moss for Just Imagine – another fascinating blog post from Roy looking at the cross-curriculum possibilities of the subject of rivers. Lots of excellent suggestions of books on the subject, helpful for all aspects from field trip preparation, and human geography to politics and environment.

National Literacy Trust World Book Day Support and Resources – World Book Day takes place on Thursday 2nd March and is one of the highlights of the children’s literary calendar. The National Literacy Trust are hosting online events on the day itself, have created teaching resources linked to books for use in schools plus parental engagement ideas. Lots of ideas here to help you plan for the big day.

Books are for life, not just World Book Day! – the World Book Day festivities can be an excellent launch of a whole school reading for pleasure initiative and this helpful article by Kayleigh Valentini and Ellen Counter on the HFL Education website explores this subject. It contains useful links and lots of suggestions for promoting a love of books within a school community.

The Children’s Book Show: LIVE online performances Friday 3rd March to celebrate World Book Day – a live digital event at 11am with award winning illustrator and writer Yasmeen Ismail sharing stories, drawing live and answering questions for children in Years 1, 2 and 3. At 1.30pm the legendary Frank Cottrell Boyce will be giving creative writing tips, reading, taking questions with children in Years 4,5 and 6. More details plus ticket prices etc via the link above.

Shortlist Announced for the KPMG Children’s Books Ireland Awards 2023 – This year’s shortlist, which includes four debut authors, will compete for the KPMG Children’s Books Ireland Book of the Year and five other awards, including honours for fiction, illustration and a Junior Juries’ Award which will be decided by young readers from across the country. A total prize fund of €16,000 will be awarded to this year’s winners, who will be announced at a special ceremony at the International Literature Festival Dublin on Wednesday, 24th May.

CILIP SLG School Libraries in View January 2023 – School Libraries in View is the annual journal of the School Libraries Group and the latest edition is freely available to download now. It includes excellent articles by experts including outgoing Chair, Caroline Roche, Dr. Carol Webb, librarian at the Portsmouth Grammar School, Professor Teresa Cremin of the Open University. A valuable resource.

Waterstones Children’s Book Prize Shortlist 2023 – This year’s selection, as always chosen by Waterstones booksellers, is divided into three categories, Illustrated Fiction, Younger Readers and Older Readers. Congratulations to all the shortlisted authors, illustrators and publishers. I was pleased to see I am NOT a Prince written by Rachael Davis and illustrated by Beatrix Hatcher in the Illustrated Fiction category and The Book of Stolen Dreams by David Farr illustrated by Kristina Kister in the Younger Readers shortlist.

Nikki Gamble’s February Book Blast – a quick reminder that you can join Nikki Gamble on YouTube Sunday, 12th February 5.00 pm to discover the pick of the finest books published this month.

Lucas Maxwell’s Portable Magic Dispenser – the latest issue of Lucas’s monthly newsletter includes Manga Club activities, recommended titles and suggestions on how to encourage older students to use the school library.

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

I Remember by Jeanne Willis & Raquel Catalina – another helpful review by teacher, Paul Watson, this time of a sensitively written picture book exploring the subject of dementia. Paul’s review also includes a glimpse of the illustrations which look perfect for the subject matter.

How to Make a Story by Naomi Jones, illustrated by Ana Gomez – a different sort of picture book and one that may help our youngest readers learn to craft stories of their own. A really lovely, detailed review by Veronica Price suggests that this would be a valuable book for the primary classroom too.

The Nowhere Thief by Alice M Ross – an intriguing review by John Lloyd on The Bookbag of this new title published next month. An inventive fantasy drama that is full of surprises, this will no doubt appeal to many.

Growing in Confidence: Brilliant Books for Lower Key Stage Two – Kate Heap has reviewed a selection of books that will encourage children aged about 7-9 to become readers. The presentation, topics, and of course the stories themselves are all designed to appeal to this age group.

That’s everything for this week. On Wednesday 15th February the longlists for the Yoto Carnegie Medals will be announced with 67 books in contention for the Yoto Carnegie Medal for Writing and 58 books for the Yoto Carnegie Medal for Illustration, – this includes 6 titles nominated for both medals. I’m sure there will be lots of heated discussion about the lists among children’s book lovers in the coming days! I hope those of you on half term break this week get the opportunity to rest and relax.

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12 Responses to Reading Matters – children’s book news

  1. Calmgrove says:

    So much positive news about reading opportunities for youngsters in the stories you’ve linked to, Anne, all hopefully leading to successful outcomes! The Shaun Tan and the Laura Wood items most grabbed my attention of course, but I’m also glad of being reminded of the date for World Book Day – I’d be interested to see what’s on offer this year.

    Liked by 1 person

    • alibrarylady says:

      Thank you, Chris, there’s a great deal of positivity in many of the initiatives linked to children’s books which is such good news. The Laura Wood book is great fun! Have you explored Shaun Tan’s website, Chris? It’s comprehensive and I’m hoping to find time to read some of his articles in the near future.

      Liked by 1 person

  2. Thank you for a bumper week of news Anne, I have been so busy at work recently that I would have totally lost touch with the children’s book world without Reading Matters! I love your description of The Agency for Scandal as Jane Austen with added oomph – you’ve sold it to me (although my current TBR stack is rather overwhelming). I hope that you are able to find some relaxation time over the weekend.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Fab round up of children’s book news, Anne. Loved the Guardian article on the power of reading to assist in the navigation of difficult topics and emotions. This little snippet in particular struck a chord with me:

    “Now more than ever, in the light of everything that is going on in the world, we need to equip children with the skills to navigate emotional terrain – not protect them from it. Books can help children to process emotions while feeling safe.”

    I’ll check out the rest of the articles throughout the week! Great to have this all in one place!

    Liked by 1 person

    • alibrarylady says:

      The article is an interesting read isn’t it. I agree that used with care the right book can help children understand tricky situations more easily and they definitely aid conversation about difficult subjects.
      Thank you and I hope you find the other links useful too.

      Liked by 1 person

  4. JosieHolford says:

    I am VERY wary of any book recommendations for children that tout “LGBTQ+ authors”. I’ve seen some very dodgy materials out there aimed at children and I wonder about the agenda.

    We all know children need to know that homosexuality and bisexuality are normal. I just have my eye out for gender ideology propaganda. Kids do not need to sold the false notion that they can change sex or that they are born in the wrong body and can change that.

    There does seem to be a gender ideology lobby in children’s publishing and it’s worth keeping an eye on. This is the lobby that managed to deep-six Rachel Rooney’s excellent picture book illustrated by Ahlberg “My Body is Me”. Are you familiar with it?


    • alibrarylady says:

      As you will be aware the role of the librarian is to provide books of all types for all users. We follow at all times the official guidelines regarding censorship produced by both the School Library Association and the Chartered Institute of Library and Information Professionals.


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