Reading Matters – children’s book news

Welcome to this week’s look at what has been happening in the world of children’s books. Once more there has been mention of children’s books on Radio4, or more specifically mention of the lack of attention children’s books receive in the media. We can only hope that this repeated refrain will soon lead to widespread, informed discussion about children’s literature in all its formats. Meanwhile I hope this weekly look at what is going on and spreading the word about new books, awards etc. helps a little.

What I’m reading…

Regular readers of this blog will know that I am a fan of both the Lulu and Zeki series of books for little ones published by Alanna Max. I’m happy to report that this appreciation is now carrying on down the generations. My son tells me that his baby boy, now aged 8 months, loves sharing the Zeki books at bedtime which delights me. According to his mum and dad ‘the text is just right’ for reading aloud to him and he loves looking at the bright, cheerful illustrations which depict things he may now recognise and be familiar with. With impeccable timing there is another Zeki book out later this month, Zeki Goes to the Park with words by Anna McQuinn and pictures by Ruth Hearson. I will write a review in the coming days but I feel sure that this carefully created book celebrating family time and first experiences will be just as much loved by my grandson as its predecessors.

This week’s personal highlight was attending the announcement of the shortlist for the Klaus Flugge Prize at Waterstones Piccadilly on Wednesday evening. Before the announcement we had the pleasure of listening to award-winning illustrator of favourites including What the Ladybird Heard, Lydia Monks in discussion with Julia Eccleshare. I found this both entertaining and enlightening as Lydia shared her route into becoming a successful illustrator which involved much determination and resilience in addition to talent.

Huge congratulations to the five illustrators shortlisted illustrators (details below) and it is wonderful to see the talent and enthusiasm of new picturebook creators appreciated, nurtured and celebrated in this way. I don’t envy the judges their difficult task of selecting an eventual winner as all five books are special in different ways.

Over the last few weeks I have read a number of novels for children aged about 9 – 12 and I’ve reviewed a selection here that you may be interested in.

News, articles and resources…

Open University Reading for Pleasure: Top Texts for May – Dr Julia Blake has selected a wonderful collection of poems for reading aloud and each of her three choices are perfect for primary school libraries and classrooms.

Sunday Times Sports Book Awards: shortlists announced – These awards exist to highlight the most outstanding sports books of the previous calendar year, to showcase their merits and to enhance their reputation and profile. There are 11 categories in total and the ‘Children’s Sports Book of the Year’ category was added in 2020. The shortlist for this category this year includes All To Play For by Eve Ainsworth and illustrated by Kirsti Beautiman which I would highly recommend.

The British Book Awards Book of the Year Winners 2023 – a ceremony took place on Monday evening at which the winners of these awards was announced and following it online I, like many others I expect, gave a little cheer when SF Said won the children’s fiction category for Tyger. A stunning story beautifully illustrated by Dave McKean. You can see which books won all the different categories in the link above but a special mention for Harry Woodgate’s Grandad’s Camper which won the Children’s Illustrated category and A Better Day by Dr Alex George which won the Children’s Non-Fiction award.

InspiREAD 2023 Shortlist Out Now – InspiREAD began during the first Covid-19 lockdown as a virtual primary book award. It now runs annually during the summer term. It is a great way to help you develop your reading community, encouraging children to read for pleasure, and to include parents, grandparents, carers, teachers, and anyone who enjoys a good read to get involved. You can find out more about the award, the shortlisted titles in the three age groups plus videos and resources on the website above.

Garden Wildlife Week – another really lovely and interesting read in this series of blogs for Just Imagine by Roy Moss. In this one Roy explores the decline in the number of birds over the years and suggests some excellent books to help children learn about and encourage different species of birds into their gardens, on to their balconies or in to school grounds. As Roy says, a perfect way to turn Garden Wildlife Week into Garden Wildlife Season!

Reading ability of children in England scores well in global survey – the Progress in International Reading Literacy Study (Pirls) results were announced recently and England’s nine and 10-year-olds have taken fourth place. This Guardian article explores the findings and includes comment by Geoff Barton, general secretary of the Association of School and College Leaders (ASCL).

Booking Page British Library presents: Create a handmade library with Axel Scheffler and friends – Join Axel Scheffler and Jasbinder Bilan on 12th June at 11 am in this online event to discover how to create a handmade library for your classroom. Help celebrate the British Library’s 50th birthday by inspiring your students to make their own small books using non-fiction, storytelling and the power of crafting.

Dads and Art: some emotional landscape painting – this blogpost by Nick Swarbrick discusses fathers in picturebooks, notably two by Anthony Browne, Zoo and The Shape Game and a new book, Rory’s Room of Rectangles by Ian Eagleton and Jessica Knight reviewed below. This gave me a great deal to think about regarding the portrayal of families and fathers in particular in picturebooks for children.

Klaus Flugge Prize Shortlist Announced – the shortlist for this award celebrating the most promising and exciting newcomer to children’s illustration was announced at an event held at Waterstones, Piccadilly on Wednesday evening. The impressive longlist has now been whittled down to five books and it will be a hard task for the judging panel to decide on the eventual winner who will be announced in September. There is a lovely video and more information about the illustrators and their brilliant books on the official website above. Don’t forget the brilliant Klaus Flugge Prize Presentation created by Mat Tobin, mentioned last week, which explores all the books on the original longlist.

Lessons in Life, Andria Zafirakou: Author Chat with Nikki Gamble – if like me you couldn’t make this event live during the week you can now watch it on Nikki’s Book Channel. Andria Zafirakou joined Nikki to talk about inspirational teachers from around the world and her new book Lessons in life.

What to Read After…Dog Man – assistant headteacher Dean Boddington, creator of the monthly reading Newsletter – ‘No Shelf Control’, has written this article for Book Trust with loads of suggestions of books that will keep fans of Dog Man by Dav Pilkey laughing and loving reading.

Libraries Connected: Ready to Learn Campaign – the Ready to Learn campaign highlights the crucial role libraries play in helping young children prepare for school. Libraries Connected are calling on national and local government to put libraries at the heart of efforts to support children’s transition to formal education. This article includes reference to a recent poll of primary school teachers on the subject of public libraries and readiness for school.

Free Author Events for Summer Term 2023 – this is a valuable resource created and shared by The Literacy Hive. Take advantage of the many free online events this summer term to bring a little author magic into your classroom. There is something for everybody in this term’s selection and Literacy Hive will keep updating as new events are released.

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

Rory’s Room of Rectangles by Ian Eagleton & Jessica Knight – teacher and book reviewer Paul Watson’s review of this new picture book highlights the way in which this could prompt thought or conversation about blended families or in fact what a family is.

Oh Maya Gods! by Maz Evans – Meet the brand-new Gods Squad led by Vesper, the bossy, football-mad adopted daughter of Elliot Hooper in this review by Tom Griffiths. Tom ranks this up there with the return of Neighbours has a highlight of 2023 so those who follow Tom on Twitter will appreciate that this is praise of the highest order!

Jericho Prize: Summer Reads – two new novels for children are reviewed on the Jericho Prize website, Kofi and the Rap Battle Summer by Jeffrey Boakye, illustrated by Beth Suzanna and Fablehouse by EL Norry, illustrated by Thy Bui. Thank you to Fabia Turner for her tempting and helpful reviews.

That’s everything for this week and I hope that you have found this collection of links and reviews helpful. Happy reading.

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2 Responses to Reading Matters – children’s book news

  1. Nick says:

    Thanks for the Pingback! Probably the last on Fatherhood for a while as Mat and I get writing properly. But in terms of gender and picturebooks, I am stung by how discussion of significant male friendships has attracted hostile comments for someone whose insights I admire; this may provide me with a rich vein…

    Liked by 1 person

    • alibrarylady says:

      Your article was a fascinating read and made me think more about the depiction of fatherhood in picturebooks. I’m disappointed and sorry to learn that you’ve received hostile comments, that must be hard and I admire the way you intend to use it positively.


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