Reading Matters – children’s book news

Welcome to this week’s look at what has been happening in the world of children’s books recently.

What I’m reading…

This week I would like to highlight books from The Emma Press, an independent publisher, specialising in poetry, short fiction and children’s books, who state that their mission is to “make literature and publishing as welcoming and accessible as possible.” It was founded by Emma Dai’an Wright in Winnersh, Berkshire, in 2012 and their books have been shortlisted for and won the CLiPPA and other awards. Over the last week or so I have been savouring some of their publications for children.

Cloud Soup, a poetry collection by Kate Wakeling illustrated by Elīna Brasliņa is included in this year’s Read for Empathy collection and is the sequel to Moon Juice, the CLiPPA award winner in 2017. The poems in this book vary greatly in theme, containing humour and thoughtful observation, moving from the everyday to the mystical. Some poems would prompt conversation, some will make you smile and others will make you sit and think quietly, but all feel natural. The charming illustrations work well with the text making this a delightful package that I would recommend for primary schools.

Na Willa and the House in the Alley written by Reda Gaudiamo illustrated by Cecillia Hidayat and translated by Ikhada Ayuning Maharishi Degoul and Kate Wakeling is the second in the series of stories featuring a small girl growing up in Indonesia with an East Indonesian mother and a Chinese-Indonesian father. Based on the author’s own childhood in the 1960s this delightful book celebrates the small moments in a child’s life that matter to them. Na Willa plays outside with her friends, listens to the radio with her mother, loves to sing and read and is always asking questions. I particularly liked the voice of Na Willa, she is an engaging and charming narrator and this is a testament to the skill of the author and translator who ensure that this does feel like the musings of a young child. Told in relatively short chapters this could be read independently by readers of about 8 plus and read aloud to younger children too.

Last but not least the Bicki-Books collection is well worth a look. These are a series of little postcard sized picture books each containing a poem, translated from Latvian, illustrated by a contemporary illustrator. Calm Beasts by Herberts Dorbe illustrated by Gita Treice is a gorgeous little celebration of the imaginary world created in children’s literature and there are several others available either as a bundle of books or part of a subscription package.

News, articles and resources…

Don’t Forget Empathy Day 8th June! – Empathy Day is a brilliant way to inspire young people to develop their empathy superpower, and change the world for the better. TAKE ACTION NOW! There are some wonderful, free Mission Empathy resources and activities which you can use from now onwards. Do register for your resources which will help you organise a powerful day with a lasting impact. Choose toolkits for your setting – Early Years, primary or secondary school or public library via the link above where you can register for the live online event on the day too. A free downloadable family activities pack is also available at .

Books For Keeps May 2023 Issue – the latest issue of this excellent online magazine for those interested in children’s books includes a guest editorial by Frank Cottrell Boyce, Authorgraph interview Jackie Morris; Rob Ramsden Windows into Illustration; ten of the best Irish children’s books; new Beyond the Secret Garden looking at belonging and nature in British Children’s books; plus reviews. A must read!

Discover the UK’s Largest Collection of Translated Children Literature From Around the World – A new video has been produced by Outside in World (OIW) to showcase the organisation’s work in exploring, celebrating and promoting children’s books in translation and presents its unique collection of 1,600 titles translated from many world languages into English. It highlights OIW as a valuable resource for publishers, educationalists, librarians, academics, researchers and students. This collection is the largest of its kind in the UK and is now part of Near and Far World Books at the University of Portsmouth Library. You can watch the video via the link above

Choosing Books To Read Aloud: Blog by Roy James – the latest in Roy’s series of blogs for Just Imagine includes input from several experienced class teachers and contains much helpful advice, plenty of excellent book suggestions and valuable video links to more advice.

Announcing the Shortlists for the School Library Association Community Award and Enterprise of the Year 2023 – Following the awards’ inaugural year in 2022, these two awards are continuing to celebrate the amazing projects that are getting the UK’s school pupils excited about reading. The Enterprise of the Year celebrates one-off or progressive projects which contribute towards reading and literacy in schools. The Community Award recognises the organisations and initiatives which partner with schools to promote and develop a reading culture.

Wales Book of the Year Award 2023 The English-language Shortlist – The Wales Book of the Year Award is an annual prize celebrating outstanding literary talent from Wales across many genres and in both English and Welsh. The shortlists were announced this week and the English language titles are: The Mab, Various Authors (Unbound), When The War Came Home, Lesley Parr (Bloomsbury Children’s Books) and The Last Firefox, Lee Newbery (Penguin Random House Children’s).

The Nero Book Awards – Caffè Nero announced this week that it is launching these new awards which will highlight winners in various categories. These categories: children’s books, debut fiction, fiction and nonfiction. The Nero awards will be open to books by writers based in the UK and Ireland, and will be administered by trade organisation the Booksellers Association. The awards are also in partnership with Brunel University London and Right to Dream.

The 100 greatest children’s books of all time – BBC Culture polled 177 books experts from 56 countries in order to find the greatest children’s books ever. This makes interesting reading and I’m sure we could all come up with a list and each would be different reflecting our experience, age and awareness of children’s literature. For that reason I find the individual choices of the experts particularly interesting. Whatever your view of the selection it is encouraging to witness this conversation about children’s books in main stream media.

Meet author Cath Howe to celebrate Empathy Day – with Empathy Day in 8th June rapidly approaching this free online event hosted by the National Literacy Trust on the day from 1.30pm – 2.15pm will be useful for schools. Cath Howe will discuss her books, her inspirations as an author, and tshare insights into her latest title, My Life on Fire published by Nosy Crow. This event is open to all school children and is suitable for pupils ages 8 to 12, and the session will include a live Q&A where pupils can ask questions and join in with thoughts and comments.

Diverse Libraries webinar 20th June – Patrick Ness: Handling difficult conversations around representation in children’s literature – another free online event from the National Literacy Trust, this time for library staff or teachers based in primary or secondary schools, public or community libraries across the UK. Award-winning author Patrick Ness will explore why it’s important that children can continue to access books which confront complex matters. Librarian Barbara Band will open the webinar with an exploration of how best to address the representation of neurodiversity in conversations about children’s literature. Booking via the link above.

Unveiling the KPMG Children’s Books Ireland Award winners 2023 – The winners of this year’s KPMG Children’s Books Ireland Awards were announced this at a ceremony held as part of International Literature Festival Dublin. Selected by an independent panel of expert judges, including a Young Judge, and a network of Junior Jurors nationwide, the winning titles include an illustrated retelling of Cinderella as Gaeilge; an anthology of unsung stories about Ireland’s mythical goddesses; a mischievous mystery for younger readers; a colourful adventure tale of bravery and friendship; and a supernatural page-turner for ages nine and up.

Jhalak Prize Winners 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. The winners of this year’s awards were announced this week, Congratulations to Travis Alabanzo, winner of Jhalak Prize for None of the Above and Danielle Jawando, winner of Jhalak C&YA Prize for When Our Worlds Collided.

The Week Junior Book Awards: Shortlists Announced – These new awards were launched this year by the Week Junior and The Bookseller. Showcasing top children’s books across nine categories, The Week Junior Book Awards aim to inspire children to read for pleasure. From magical adventures to real-life stories, there’s something for everyone to enjoy including fiction, non-fiction, illustrated (including graphic novels), best STEM book, debut book, audiobook and book cover. This week the shortlists were announced and readers have been asked to choose the winner of the award for the best Children’s Book Cover of the Year 2023.

Get creative and win amazing prizes from Book Trust Writer in Residence SF Said – With a Bank Holiday weekend and half term stretching ahead of us, why not get creative? Writer in Residence SF Said is looking for children’s writing and art inspired by animals – and he has some great prizes on offer. There are resources, ideas and full details available on the website and the closing date is 5pm on Friday, 28 July 2023.

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

The Big Book of Nature Art by Yuval Zommer – the latest in this series of books by Yuval Zommer us full of creative inspiration for young children. Roy Moss’s review for Just Imagine explores the activities, the facts included and the nature vocabulary incorporated within its pages. A must have for schools and useful for families who like to ‘make and do’.

Midwinter Burning by Tanya Landman – this historical time-slip adventure for middle grade readers, from the Carnegie Medal-winning author is published next month and Kate Heap’s review has whetted my appetite. “…powerful historical story. a hero who has much to learn about life, adults who recognise and support a child in need, devoted friendship, and a wonderfully magical time-slip adventure. Tanya Landman is a master at weaving an engaging and heart-warming story that holds readers fast.”

Surprisingly Sarah by Terri Libenson – The seventh in the Emmie & Friends graphic novel series, Surprisingly Sarah could also be read as a stand alone according to this excellent review by Veronica Price. “An interesting, honest, humorous portrayal of young teens with all their conflicting emotions as they navigate friendships, school and the onset of adolescence…”

That’s everything for this week. I hope you have a happy bank holiday weekend and that the sun is shining where you are.

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7 Responses to Reading Matters – children’s book news

  1. Ely Shemer says:

    Cool stuff!.
    This is what I think of it
    Thanks for sharing this comprehensive update on recent developments in children’s books and literature. It’s always wonderful to see independent publishers like The Emma Press doing great work, and the suggestions for new books and resources are much appreciated!
    Ely Shemer

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Rachael Booth-Clibborn says:

    Morning Anne

    What a great newsletter! Wonderful for OIW to be included below recommended books in translation. Thank you so much.

    Have a lovely weekend. I’m off up to Ally Pally with my other hat on to join the Makers Market for the group I run, Muswell Hill Creatives.

    Best wishes


    Liked by 1 person

    • alibrarylady says:

      Hi Rachael,

      It was a coincidence that I happened to be reading those books at the time but the two items work well together don’t they. How lucky!

      Your weekend sounds interesting. Have fun.
      Best wishes, Anne


  3. Wonderful collection of news items as always Anne, thank you 😊 I hope you have a lovely Bank Holiday weekend!

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Calmgrove says:

    A wide range, as usual, Anne, thanks. Where the BBC listing is concerned I haven’t looked at the choices of all the individual critics, but those I sampled were fascinating, especially in terms of the fact that English language texts disproportionately dominate the lists; also the fact that the choices of certain critics never feature at all in the Top 100, which is detrimental to international diversity. Still, fascinating as I say!

    Liked by 1 person

  5. alibrarylady says:

    You make an interesting point about English language texts, Chris. I agree it’s fascinating to browse the individual lists with some very much concentrating on new titles. The range is incredible. More books to discover now!


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