Reading Matters – children’s book news

Welcome to this week’s catch up with what has been happening in the world of children’s books.

What I’m reading…

Illustrations by Simone Douglas

Portraits and Poison is the second book in The Lizzie and Belle Mysteries by J. T. Williams and despite not have read its predecessor I thoroughly enjoyed this historical adventure. The back story is helpfully supplied in the prologue and within pages I was immersed in this Georgian world of intrigue, corruption, friendship and courage. The author has successfully combined a thrilling page-turner and an exploration of Black British history for her young audience. The two female leads are different enough in character to provide a balance in attitude and approach that adds to the drama. Although a work of fiction some of the characters are based on real historical figures and inspiring stories of Black resistance to the appalling treatment by some is incorporated in the plot increasing awareness and understanding. The first book in the series has appeared on several award lists and having read the second I think that it would be a valuable addition to school libraries. (Published by Farshore for aged 8-12).

News, articles and resources…

2023 English 4-11 Picture Book Awards – I missed the announcement of this shortlist so in case you did too I’ve included this helpful article from Books for Keeps providing details. The winners will be announced on Thursday 25th May.

The Klaus Flugge Prize Presentation – more picurebook delights! The shortlist for this award will be announced next Wednesday, 17th May and the fabulous longlist makes this a difficult task for the judging panel. Mat Tobin, former Klaus Flugge Prize judge and lecturer at Oxford Brookes University, has generously created and shared this wonderful presentation providing information, links and thoughts on the longlisted books. This would be brilliant to share in both schools and libraries. Thank you to Mat for this excellent resource.

Tom Palmer: Refugee Week in Fiction – Refugee Week, 19th – 25th June 2023, is a UK-wide festival celebrating the contributions, creativity and resilience of refugees and people seeking sanctuary. Tom Palmer is creating 5 short stories, titled Boat People, which will be shared with print and video resources on the National Literacy Trust website. There will also be a virtual CPD event for teachers. These resources will be free and you can find out more and sign up for details/reminders on Tom’s website link above.

Young Quills shortlist 2023 – Each year, the Historical Association runs ‘Young Quills’, a competition for published historical fiction for children and young adults (14+). The judges are all adults, so to get the opinions of young readers, copies of the books were sent out to a number of schools, where the teachers have kindly volunteered to recruit pupils to read and review them and always receive a magnificent total of reviews, which guide the shortlisting process. A selection of the reviews will be added to the website in the next few weeks.

EmpathyLab Events – with Empathy Day on 8th June now rapidly approaching do please have a look at these EmpathyLab events, launches, and appearances at festivals and conferences. The video of the official launch with a briefing for supporters, featuring teachers, librarians, and authors like Maisie Chan and Frank Cottrell-Boyce, who speak on what to expect from Empathy Day 2023, ways to get involved, and the crucial need for empathy in our world is now available to watch and there are several excellent events still to come. You can sign up via the link above.

Puffin Schools Virtual Visits – Each of these free webinar sessions will include a presentation giving pupils a behind-the-scenes look at different author’s/illustrator’s books, characters, and creative process before setting an exciting activity for the class. Forthcoming events include, Lee Newbury, Nathan Bryon and Dapo Adeolo, and Ed Vere. More information and registration details are on the website.

Barnes Children’s Literature Festival Tickets now on sale! – this popular annual event is taking place on the weekend of 24th and 25th June and tickets went on sale today. The programme is wonderful with plenty for children from toddlers upwards. Highlights include Emma Carroll, SF Said, Dara MacAnulty, M G Leonard, Chris Riddell, Alex Wharton, Cressida Cowell and oodles more. Well worth a browse of the programme and making the trip if you are near enough.

The Winner of the 2023 Oscar’s Book Prize – the winner of this award, The Boy With Flowers in His Hair by Jarvis, was announced at an event in London this week. You can read more about the award, the winner and the shortlisted books in the Books for Keeps article above.

Book Blast With Nikki Gamble – join Nikki for this recording of her blast through some of the best books published in April and early May. It is organised in chapters for easy viewing. An excellent way of keeping up to date with the best of the new publications for children.

Library Lifeline 14: How do I help pupils see themselves as readers? – the latest blog by Dawn Woods of the School Library Association in this helpful series for the National Literacy Trust provides an overview into how to help pupils to form positive beliefs about themselves as readers which in turn will influence their behaviours towards reading for pleasure.

Graffeg Announce New Welsh Imprint – Graffeg have announced plans for a new imprint, named Cadno (Welsh for fox), focusing on Middle Grade books in English with uniquely Welsh content. Keen to develop the idea of Wales as an important and positive literary setting for children’s books, Graffeg’s plans centre on identifying high quality literary texts (both fiction and creative non-fiction) either set in Wales or involving characters from Wales, and which are preferably written by authors with strong connections to Wales. Graffeg will have the support of the Books Council of Wales who are providing both funds and expertise to help get the imprint underway. Subscribers to The Bookseller can read more about it via the link above. Thank you to Jo Bowers of Just Imagine for making me aware of this.

Create a handmade library with SF Said and friends – for teachers and librarians a free webinar on Tue 23 May, 16:00 – 17:30. Join this inspiring session with author SF Said, pop-up book artist Paul Johnson, teacher Karen Stringer, and Learning Officer Sue Newby from the Brontë Parsonage. Discover imaginative ways to spark reading and writing for pleasure in the classroom, engage in playful book-making activities, see tiny handmade books created by the Brontë siblings, and find out how to help your class celebrate the British Library’s 50th birthday.

The Creative Process and Working Together – a beautiful article by Roy James on the Just Imagine website about collaboration, books, love, life and fairy tales marking the publication this week of The Frog’s Kiss by James Mayhew and Toto.

The Indie Book Awards 2023 – The Indie Book Awards, chosen by independent booksellers, celebrate the best summer paperbacks, whether you are reading at home or on the beach or somewhere further afield. There are four categories to choose from – Fiction, Non-Fiction, Children’s Fiction and Picture Book – so there’s something for everyone.

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

Can I Come Too? by Owen Davey – the attention this new picture book received on Twitter recently encouraged me to find out more and this excellent review on the Just Imagine website suggests it’s a must have for early years and KS1. “Full of warmth and heart, children will love making connections between their own sibling relationships and spotting themselves within the story.”

Small Bites Back by Hannah Moffatt – the sequel to the popular Small was published this week and judging by this positive review on the Reading Zone website will be just as big a hit. “Packed with comic characters, fizzing with dashes of inventive humour, this will amuse all those many children who like books that make them laugh.” Suitable for 7+.

Deadlock by Simon Fox – I really like the sound of this new thriller for readers aged about 10-14, due out next month from Nosy Crow. This description in the review for The Bookbag has sold it to me: “With a proper, audience-respecting level of peril, a ticking countdown that is not overplayed, and a satisfyingly deep pile of trouble for our leads, this is a fine stand-alone thriller drama.”

That’s everything for this week and I hope something here is helpful to you. Happy reading.

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