Welcome to this week’s look at what has been happening in the world of children’s books recently. More awards news and a brand new podcast on children’s books are just some of the highlights and I hope there is something included here that will be interesting to you.
What I’m reading…
Hilary McKay’s latest novel for Barrington Stoke, Jodie is an atmospheric, ghostly tale set in a desolate backdrop captured beautifully in Keith Robinson’s haunting illustrations. Hilary McKay has a knack of grabbing her reader with her opening lines and the first page or so of Jodie’s story was enough to make this a ‘read in one sitting’ book for me last weekend. The details of the school trip made me smile in recognition and as ever Hilary McKay’s dialogue has a natural and believable ring to it. The voices of the girls, their happy chats and their inevitable disagreements are just right. Jodie is a ghost story, deliciously spooky in places, but also a wise tale of friendship and loyalty.
I’ve just finished reading The Not-So-Uniform Life of Holly-Mei by Christina Matula Illustrated by Yao Xiao and thoroughly enjoyed my visit to Hong Kong alongside the endearing Holly-Mei and her family. Christina Matula has done an excellent job of balancing this story of friendship and fitting in with an exploration of what it means to be of dual heritage. Drawing on her own personal experiences the author has ensured that this book has an authentic and distinctive voice which enlightens the reader whilst also entertaining them. Any child experiencing a move of home or school, or both like Holly, will find this positive story reassuring.
News, articles and resources…
The Island of Brilliant With Frank Cottrell Boyce and Nadia Shireen – this new podcast is a total delight for adult children’s book lovers and will probably convert others to the joys of children’s literature too. Nadia and Frank will be chatting about what’s new and brilliant in children’s writing with the help of visitors to the island and reviews delivered via sea-shell from the doyen of children’s literature critics, Emily Drabble.
Children’s and teens roundup – the best new picture books and novels – A war between fruit and veg; a colourful study of germs; the world’s most badly behaved fairy; a masterful ghost story from the late Marcus Sedgwick; and more are among the selection chosen by Imogen Russell Williams in her latest round up for the Guardian.
The Reader Teacher: May 2023 Children’s Books I’m Most Excited About – Each month Scott Evans puts together these ‘Coming Soon’ videos previewing his most anticipated children’s books releases. This month includes I Am, You Are: Let’s Talk About Disability, Individuality and Empowerment by Ashley Harris Whaley and Ananya Rao-Middleton a book I would also recommend for primary school libraries and classrooms.
Shortlist for the CLiPPA 2023 Announced – In celebration of twenty years of the CLiPPA (CLPE’s Children’s Poetry Award ) 2023, the shortlist was revealed at a live online event, hosted by Chris Riddell streamed into thousands of schools across the UK. All the shortlisted poets on the shortlist gave a reading at the event. As well as celebrating outstanding poetry, the CLiPPA encourages schools to explore the shortlist with their pupils through the Shadowing Scheme. It’s a wonderful selection on the shortlist and suitable for a wide age range too. Andrea Reece also wrote an article celebrating the award on the Children’s Poetry Summit website that you may enjoy reading too.
Longlist for the Information Book Award (IBA) 2023 Announced – Now in its thirteenth year, the IBA aims to emphasise the importance of non-fiction by highlighting and celebrating the high standard of children’s information books. The School Library Association in partnership with Hachette Children’s Book Group (HCG), and Peters, recently announced this year’s long lists. 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. Some excellent titles are included and you can find out more via the link above.
Book Trust: Books We Love This Month: May – Every month, the Book Trust team review dozens of books for children and teenagers. The ones they like best in May include Sheep School by Ross Montgomery and Marisa Morea, highly recommended by my assistant reviewer aged 6, and My Name is Sunshine Simpson by GM Linton which is highly recommended by me. I’ve added some to my wish list too.
National Share a Story Month 2023 Competitions and Resources – National Share A Story Month is the Federation of Children’s Book Groups annual month-long celebration of stories and aims to bring children and books together in new ways. The theme for 2023 is Sail Away in a Story and you can find details of two competitions for children and resources and suggested reading lists on the website linked above.
The Bookbuzz 2023 books are here – Book Trust have revealed this year’s Bookbuzz selection. Each Bookbuzz student can choose their book to take home and keep, and all Bookbuzz schools will get two copies of every book to boost their bookshelves. There is a wide variety of titles, from non-fiction reads for curious minds to fast-paced page-turners.
Free Webinar: The connection between reading for pleasure and empathy – on 16 May 6.30-7.30pm, during the run-up to Empathy Day on 8 June, this free, professional learning webinar explores how the core life skill of empathy can be developed and honed through reading for pleasure. The speakers are A.M. Dassu, Professor Teresa Cremin and Jon Biddle.
Books for Topics Updated Year Group Booklists – Each of the Books for Topics Year Group Recommended Reads lists contains 50 books specially picked out for reading for pleasure in each primary year group, from Preschool to Year 6. The lists are designed to provide recommendations of age-appropriate and accessible books across a range of genres and styles. These lists differ from the topic booklists, as the books are purely selected for the purpose of reading for pleasure at each age group.
Mr Dilly Meets SF Said & Friends – on Wed, 24 May 11:00 – 12:00 Mr Dilly Meets best-selling, award-winning author SF Said discussing the phenomenal Tyger, ahead of its paperback launch later in the year. PLUS start your Empathy Day countdown with a special preview with authors and illustrators Tom Percival, Nicola Davies, Polly Ho Yen and Stewart Foster joining SF Said, to discuss the importance of empathy in their books and how to get involved with Empathy Day 2023 on Thursday 8 June. This event will be a LIVE STREAM on YOUTUBE. You will be sent a link to watch the event after you book your place.
Lucas Maxwell’s Newsletter: The Portable Magic Dispenser – the latest issue contains Lucas’s helpful tips and some ideas from other schools plus his recent online discussion with Just Imagine on the subject of reading for pleasure.
Finally, some book reviews that caught my eye this week…
Monster Support Group: The Werewolf’s Tale by Laura Suarez – this new graphic novel published by Flying Eye Books sounds like a great read, with links to Ancient Greece and with a thoughtful message too. Paul Watson’s helpful review tells you more.
Finn Jones Was Here by Simon James Green illustrated by Jennifer Jamieson – I love the sound of this book published this month by Scholastic. In his thoughtful review Tom Griffiths describes it as one of his favourite books of the year so far. I admire an author who can convey the difficult emotions experienced during a period of grief and to make it accessible to children is even more impressive.
Wild by Ele Fountain – I thought Melt was an excellent read and this review by Jo Cummins of the latest middle grade novel by Ele Fountain has whetted my appetite for Wild too, “Her writing is guaranteed to draw you in and take you on a journey- in the case of ‘Wild,’ literal and metaphorical!”
That’s everything for this week and I hope another long Bank holiday weekend is going to provide me with an opportunity to catch up on the enormous pile of books in my ‘to be read’ heap. Wishing you a happy coronation weekend.
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