Reading Matters – children’s book news

Welcome to this week’s look at what has been happening in the world of children’s books. A personal highlight for me was attending the launch of Where the River Takes us by Lesley Parr on Monday. It was a treat to see some old friends and familiar faces after far too long and to meet new people too. Thank you to Lesley and Bloomsbury for a really happy evening.

Last week I shared details of the latest report and news from the Great School Libraries campaign and omitted one very important item. The petition! Here is a link if you would like to add your voice to this appeal to make a school library statutory in every school. It could make a difference so do please sign if you can. Thank you.

There is some important award news this week with both the Yoto Carnegies and the British Book Awards shortlists announced plus the Jhalak Prize long lists. I was also delighted to listen to discussion about the awards and current children’s books on BBC Radio this week.

What I’m reading…

Last weekend I enjoyed reading Where the River Takes Us by Lesley Parr. This story set in the 1970s has all the elements of the best children’s books over the years. It is full of excitement, drama, friendship, pitch perfect dialogue, families and humour but most of all warmth, kindness and hope. All the main characters felt believable to me and feature relatable traits with which children will identify. Jason himself is an appealing protagonist and the manner in which his friends support him as he deals with grief, which at times becomes overwhelming for him, is touching. Set against the backdrop of the three day week, miners strikes and power cuts the themes have a relevance today too. An exciting read but one with a great deal of understanding at its heart and a real sense of the importance of community. Where the River Takes Us was published this week by Bloomsbury and, I think, is definitely one to watch.

This week saw the publication of research carried out by the Centre for Literacy in Primary Education (CLPE) and Macmillan Children’s Books learning about the place of poetry in primary schools. (See news item below) Among the findings was the observation that 88% of the teachers questioned say that children enjoy engaging with poetry however 79% of classroom book corners have fewer than ten poetry books in their book selection. A Passing On Of Shells by Simon Lamb would be a welcome addition to any classroom book corner.

Fifty poems of fifty words each on subjects ranging from family to nature, offering hope and humour, wisdom and insight are gathered together in this clever debut collection. A Passing On Of Shells would be wonderful for use in schools and with its embossed hardback cover and stunning illustrations by former Children’s Laureate Chris Riddell it would also be a special gift to treasure. 

News, articles and resources…

An Evening with Shini Somara – What on Earth Books & Just Imagine invite you to an evening with Shini Somara in discussion with host Nikki Gamble to launch Engineers Making a Difference. This free event takes place on Tuesday 21st March 7-8pm and is for adults but children may watch with you.

Launch of The Big Amazing Poetry Project to address findings from new research – if you read articles in the main stream media this week about this recent research report you may have found them disheartening reading. However this article provides a more constructive view. CLPE have announced The Big Amazing Poetry Project, which has been set up together with Macmillan Children’s Books to address new findings from this recent research into Poetry teaching and learning in primary schools. The Project looks to embed poetry fully both into classrooms and also in children’s choices when reading for pleasure. You can also read the key findings of the research and download the full report if you wish to.

James launches children’s fiction podcast – Anna James is launching a new podcast exploring how children’s fiction has affected writers and creatives. Available across all major podcast platforms, the first season features eight episodes which will be released weekly on Wednesdays from 12th April. Each episode features Anna in conversation with an author about their favourite children’s or YA book. For series one, the guests will include Katherine Rundell discussing Charmed Life by Diana Wynne Jones; Gabrielle Zevin on A Little Princess by Frances Hodgson Burnett and Laura Dockrill on The Story of Tracy Beaker by Jacqueline Wilson.

Book Clubs in Schools Summer Book Club – Summer Book Club is an engaging set of questions and activities based around everyone reading the same book. It is for new Year 7s to do over the summer as part of their preparation for secondary school. This year’s book is The Chime Seekers by Ross Montgomery and Walker Books is supporting this initiative by providing the e-book for 99p (from 12/7/23 to 17/8/23) and giving schools the opportunity to buy sets of books at a discounted price of £4. Book Clubs in Schools provided a range of free resources linked to the book for you to share. Registration and full details are available on the website above.

Open University Reading for Pleasure: OU Newsletter Live! February 2023 – if you missed this event (it clashed with Shrove Tuesday) you can now watch the recording. Hosted by Professor Teresa Cremin, this virtual event covered a range of useful topics to help participants enrich their practice and nurture pupils’ love of reading.

The Jhalak Prize Children’s and YA Longlist Announced – First awarded in March 2017, the Jhalak Prize and its new sister award Jhalak Children’s & YA Prize founded in 2020, seek to celebrate books by British/British resident BAME writers. There are some great books on other list and the shortlist will be announced on 18 April with the winner being revealed on 25 May.

BBC Sounds Front Row 14 March – if you missed Bex Lindsay, presenter on Fun Kids Radio on Tuesday evening you can catch up now. She gives a round-up of some of the most interesting and engaging new releases for young independent readers and her section starts about 17minutes into the programme. It’s wonderful to hear children’s fiction being championed on an national arts programme. Well done, Bex!

The Radio 2 Book Club with Zoe Ball – This is another radio programme highlighting the importance of both children’s books and our public libraries. Zoe Ball talks to librarian Janet Noble about her 28 year career, and the books she is loving at the moment. They discuss Jacqueline Wilson and Sabine Adeyinka, whose book ‘Jummy At The River School’ is a new favourite. This year, Janet is also the Head Judge of the Yoto Carnegie Awards – which celebrate children’s authors and illustrators.

How does reading benefit children? – A new interactive resource published this week by BookTrust sets out the extensive and wide-ranging benefits that reading can bring children, in a simple and accessible way. The benefits of reading are broken down into four core themes setting out how children who read are more likely to: Overcome disadvantage caused by inequalities, Be healthier and happier children with better mental wellbeing and self-esteem, Do better at school and make more progress across the curriculum, Develop creativity and empathy. An excellent resource with links to extensive research.

The Power of Funny Fiction by Jenny Pearson and Ross Montgomery – Barrington Stoke value and publish all kinds of books. In this guest blog post, which I missed in January, bestselling authors Jenny Pearson and Ross Montgomery talk about the power of funny books and what humour means to them.

The Yoto Carnegies Shortlists Announced – The Yoto Carnegies celebrate outstanding achievement in children’s writing and illustration and are judged by children’s and youth librarians, with the respective Shadowers’ Choice Medals voted for by children and young people. 13 books have been shortlisted in total; seven for the Carnegie Medal for Writing and six for the Carnegie Medal for Illustration. Both lists and more information about both the books and the awards can be found on the official website above. You can promote these books in schools via the shadowing scheme and there are a fantastic range of resources available here.

The British Book Awards: Book of the Year Shortlists – With 72 titles across 12 categories, this year’s shortlists for this award, known as The Nibbies, are worth browsing. Congratulations to David Fickling Books who have Tyger by SF Said illustrated by Dave McKean on the shortlist for Children’s Fiction and Bunny Vs Monkey: Rise of the Maniacal Badger by Jamie Smart on the Children’s Illustrated shortlist.

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

Monsters in Trucks by Laura Baker & Nina Dzyvulska – it was the vibrant cover that drew my attention to this new picture book for very young children. Having now read Catherine Friess’ review on her Story Snug blog I think this would be a great picture book for use in Early Years settings and at home too with lots to look at and discuss.

Art and Joy – Best Friends For Ever by Danielle Krysa – this new picture book designed to inspire and encourage young artists would be a valuable addition to primary school libraries and classrooms. Jo Cummins reviews the book and also hosts a piece by the book’s creator Danielle Krysa on ‘Silencing Your Inner Critic’. This aspect of the book adds to its value I think and I will be looking out for this.

Engineers Making a Difference by Dr Shini Somara – following on from the online event with Dr Somara mentioned above Kate Heap reviews her new book and says it, “is perfect for every Key Stage Two class and school library. It is a must-have for secondary schools – in the library, with the careers lead and accessible for students to explore.

Onyeka and the Rise of the Rebels by Tolá Okogwu – this sequel to Onyeka and the Academy of the Sun is available now and judging by Tom Griffiths’ positive review will be just as popular at its predecessor. With another book in the series due to be published next year fans of superhero fiction are in for a treat.

That’s everything for this week. Happy reading.

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4 Responses to Reading Matters – children’s book news

  1. Thank you for another feast of news items Anne. I love the sound of the new Anna James podcast and will definitely be adding that to my podcast subscriptions. Have a lovely weekend 😊


  2. Catherine says:

    I love reading your newsletter on a Saturday morning, Anne. Thank you for mentioning Story Snug 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

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