Perfect Picture Books for Libraries Week

Libraries Week is an annual celebration of the best that libraries have to offer. This year Libraries Week takes place between the 4th and 10th October, and highlights the central role that libraries play in their community as a driver for inclusion, sustainability, social mobility and community cohesion. Your library is taking action and changing lives!

Picture books are a wonderful way of sharing and celebrating all that libraries do to make children’s lives better. Here are a few that I have shared, read and enjoyed with children, I hope they work their magic for you too.

We Want Our Books by Jake Alexander

We Want Our Books is a debut picture book by Jake Alexander with an important message that even the smallest voice can make a difference when it is used for good.

Rosa has lots of questions and her Dad knows that the library is the place for her to find the answers. However the library is closed and not just for the day but for ever to be replaced by a restaurant. Rosa and her sister decide to put on a protest and and do everything they can to try to save their library. Although at first people are too busy or too preoccupied to join the girls Rosa and Maria persist and gradually other voices join theirs and united they can make a big difference.

We Want our Books is an inspiring story and a rallying cry to us all to save our libraries before it is too late. The tone is positive and stresses the power of communities to alter decisions that affect them all and the fact that this is started by two young girls is an empowering message for children. Jake Alexander has presented an important subject in a child friendly way. The text is short but conveys the message succinctly and the bold illustrations support the story with speech bubbles and placard messages. The front endpapers show empty shelves with just a few books scattered about whereas those at the end depict well stocked library shelves ready and waiting for users to borrow. It is lovely to see the wide range of people using the library when it reopens, a microcosm of society just as it should be. A picture book about books, libraries and the important role they play in communities is one to cherish.

Madeline Finn and The Library Dog by Lisa Papp.

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A personal favourite. A gentle story offering hope and encouragement to children who may find reading difficult. The calming  illustrations with their slightly old fashioned feel perfectly match the text that is a celebration not only of libraries but also of the “reading dogs” scheme.

Madeline Finn does NOT like to read. But she DOES want a gold star from her teacher. But, stars are for good readers. Stars are for understanding words, and for saying them out loud. 
Fortunately, Madeline Finn meets Bonnie, a library dog. Reading out loud to Bonnie isn’t so bad; when Madeline Finn gets stuck, Bonnie doesn’t mind. As it turns out, it’s fun to read when you’re not afraid of making mistakes. Bonnie teaches Madeline Finn that it’s okay to go slow. And to keep trying. 

A Library Book For Bear by Bonny Becker and Kad MacDonald Denton 

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This is a treat to read aloud being full of humour. Bear is a very reluctant library user but is won over by his friend Mouse (small but determined) and a library storytime session that illustrates perfectly that somewhere there is the right book for everyone. Even bear.

When Bear reluctantly agrees to go with his friend, Mouse, to the big library, neither rocket ships nor wooden canoes are enough for Bear’s picky tastes. How will Mouse ever find the perfect book for Bear?

The Midnight Library by Kazuno Kohara

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This picture book is suitable for the youngest of listeners. The concept of a library coming to life at night to cater for the needs of a small army of animals is very appealing to children and the ”tiny librarian’ adds to the almost fairy tale feel. The distinctive illustrations in black, midnight blue and yellow create a secretive atmosphere in this very special library.

When we are fast asleep in bed, the Midnight Library opens its doors to all the night-time animals. Inside the library the little librarian and her three assistant owls help each and every animal to find the perfect book. But with a noisy squirrel band, an upset wolf and a slow-reading tortoise to help, they could all be in for a very busy night.

How the Library (Not the Prince) Saved Rapunzel by Wendy Meddour and Rebecca Ashdown.

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An absolutely wonderful twist on a traditional tale that will lift the spirits of any librarian or book lover. This happy story told in rhyme, accompanied by vibrant illustrations, relates how Rapunzel is released from a drab and dreary life not by a dashing Prince Charming but by a job in the library and the discovery of books.

Rapunzel sits on the sixteenth floor of an inner city block, bored, dreaming and looking out at the rain. No one can rouse her from her apathy, not the milkman or the postman or the baker or her aunt – or even the prince. But when at last a letter is delivered, it contains news that has Rapunzel on her feet again. She has a new job at the library! And suddenly her life is busy, sparkling, exciting and stimulating.

Wanted! Ralfy Rabbit, Book Burglar by Emily Mackenzie

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Ralfy is a book lover. Unfortunately he loves books just a little too much, even those that belong to others. Frankly I have a bit of sympathy with Ralfy, so many gorgeous books it’s tempting to want to own them all. Sadly this is not really possible. So hurrah for the library! This is a great way to introduce a discussion with children about right and wrong and not taking things that don’t belong to you. A book to spend some time over as there is a lot to look at in the illustrations with plenty of visual humour.

Some rabbits dream about lettuces and carrots, others dream of flowering meadows and juicy dandelions, but Ralfy dreams only of books. In fact, he doesn’t just dream about them, he wants to read them ALL THE TIME. Soon his obsession sends him spiralling into a life of crime!

These are some of my favourites but there are several more wonderful picture books celebrating libraries of all sorts that I’ve shared successfully over the years and I’ve included pictures of these below in case you want to try them too. Perfect for Libraries Week but worth reading any week!

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Reading Matters – children’s book news

Welcome to this week’s look at the latest news from the world of children’s books. Many new books published, articles to read and lists to ‘discuss’ during the last few days. I have tried to select some that may appeal and hope you find something helpful among the links. We have National Poetry Day, Black History Month and Libraries Week, so a busy time for book lovers.

What I’m reading…

Last week I mentioned how much I had enjoyed reading The Book of Lost Secrets by David Farr and I have now posted my review so you can get a taste of the story and why it is one of my favourite reads of the year so far. Definitely one to watch as I’ve a feeling that this will be popular with many! Last weekend I read Sudden Death by Tom Palmer, the latest title in the Roy of the Rovers series. Much more than a ‘football story’ I found this an extremely poignant read. Tom also has a football and reading for pleasure related event coming up soon which I have included in the links below.

With National Poetry Day coming up I would like to mention a beautiful book which I’ve been savouring this week, When Poems Fall From the Sky by CLiPPA Award winning author Zaro Weil and illustrator Junli Song is a beautiful collection of poems and plays in praise of our natural world. It was published on 1st October and I would recommend this for all ages. I’ve listed an event linked to this book below. And, an example of how varied reading can be, I’ve just started A Hunter’s Moon by Danny Weston which is a mixture of folklore, fantasy and horror so I’ll let you know how I get on next week.

News, articles and resources…

Longlists for the 2022 UKLA Book Awards Announced – Celebrating children’s books, these awards are the only children’s book awards judged by teachers. Fiction and non-fiction is included for different age groups and the lists include titles from smaller publishers and reflect an understanding that all children need to see themselves in books. I’m delighted to see several of my favourites included and am looking forward to reading others that have caught me eye too.

Free To Be Me: Children’s Books Ireland launches Diversity, Inclusion and Representation project with KPMG – Free To Be Me is a project that will ensure that every child can see themselves reflected in a book as well as learning about the lives of others whose experiences and perspectives may differ from their own. There are guidelines and packs suitable for both primary and secondary available on the website and the initiative will be accompanied by book-gifting and an awareness campaign across Irish schools, libraries and bookstores over the coming months.

Poetry as Rebel Writing by Matt Goodfellow – as National Poetry Day approaches this is a thoughtful article on the Reading Zone website highlighting some of the issues surrounding poetry in schools and providing helpful advice.

National Poetry Day 2021 for Schools – Mr Dilly Meets Zaro Weil – Free online event for schools. Mr Dilly Meets CLiPPA Poetry Prize Winner Zaro Weil to discuss her stunning new collection When Poems Fall From the Sky. Followed by the premiere of Mr Dilly’s Top of the Poems, a fun, fact filled ten minute short film introduction to some of the world’s best children’s poets and poems. Thursday 7th October 11.00am -11.40am.

National Poetry Day resources – The theme for 2021 is choice, and the National Literacy Trust have developed free classroom resources to help teachers mark the day. There is also a section suitable for families.

‘I have these stories to tell’: the authors trying to diversify children’s books – new Book Trust ambassador, Dapo Adeola and the All Stories programme feature in this article about children’s publishing.

Football Reading CPD – Team up with children’s author, Tom Palmer – and headteacher and reading champion – Simon Robinson – for 45 minutes of ideas to tackle reading for pleasure using football. You can record this part of the free event to play to children in the classroom.

Children’s Books About Black British History – this is an excellent post by Alison on Books for Topics discussing this issue and highlighting both the reasons for the lack of availability and several excellent books that help fill the gap.

Reading is Magic Festival Videos – if you were unable to watch any of the fabulous online events from this festival this week they are available to watch until the end of the year. Full details of how to register and access the videos is available via the link above. The line up of authors and illustrators is excellent and you can see all the events listed here.

Down the Rabbit Hole: Celebrating Black Joy – if you missed the episode on Tuesday featuring Knights Of and the contributors to Happy Here? you can listen on any of the podcasting platforms via the link above.


‘Habits of noticing’: Three ways to watch the seasons change with your child – this is a really lovely article by Melissa Harrison, author of Ash, Oak and Thorn, for Book Trust.

September Round-Up: #WorldKidLitMonth – a bumper blog post celebrating world literature for young people over the last month. Lots of links, articles, reviews and recommendations.

Books All About Music – this is a fabulous Children’s Book Council list of books that celebrate music, books that highlight real or imaginary musicians, and books that encourage children to incorporate melody into their lives. Lovely to see Luna Loves Dance, Paris Cat and Thinker included. Perhaps we need a UK version?

Spooky Books – a list of books for different age groups selected by school librarian Rumena Aktar for the Federation of Children’s Books Group. From picture books to YA titles there’s something suitable for the nervous toddler to the teen horror fan.

The Reader Teacher September Must Reads – Scott Evan’s regular feature recommends his favourite reads from the last month and includes a downloadable poster.

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

I Get Loud by David Ouimet – Martin Galway is someone whose opinion of books I value so I took notice when I saw this review on the Just Imagine website. An extremely personal take on this new picture book and one that ‘spoke to me’, so much so that it has persuaded me to seek this book out. Thank you, Martin.

Earth is Big: a Book of Comparisons by Stephen M. Tomecek illustrated by Marcos Fariba – a helpful review by Nicki Cleveland of a non-fiction book that sounds excellent for both cross-curricular work and reading for pleasure. I found the guest post by the author interesting too.

Torn Apart: The Partition of India – Sue McGonigle’s informative review for Books for Keeps describes this book as telling ‘’an important story in an accessible way, describing a key event in world history with which many children in UK will have direct family links.’’

Violet’s Tempest by Ian Eagleton and Clara Anganuzzi – I love the sound of this picture book and both Ian and Clara share their favourite illustrations from the book on Jon Biddle’s blog alongside his review.

No Man’s Land by Joanna Nadia – this is a ‘Star Book’ on the LoveReading4Kids website and this is an overwhelmingly positive review, “mightily thought-provoking, utterly gripping, and empathy-inspiring story”. Another for my list!

That’s everything for this week. A reminder that Libraries Week starts on Monday so don’t forget to visit your local library and find out how they are celebrating this annual event. Happy reading!

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Sudden Death by Tom Palmer illustrated by Elkys Nova

Sudden Death, the latest title in the Roy of the Rovers series is a book full of love, both for the beautiful game football can be and, poignantly, for a father too. A story not only for football fans.

Cover art by Elkys Nova

Last season saw Roy Race and his teammates suffer the loss of their beloved stadium after it burnt to the ground, and an ownerless Melchester Rovers on the brink of being shut down. The new season brings fresh hope with the arrival of new owners, intent on rebuilding Mel Park and restoring the club as one of the biggest in Europe. But a new start also means new challenges for Roy, his sister, Rocky, their family, and their teammates, and Roy is also coping with his Dad’s worsening illness.

Tom Palmer’s knowledge of football, with subtle references to clubs, players and aspects of the game, is apparent throughout the story and is something that fans will recognise and enjoy. The exciting, detailed descriptions of games are so good that some TV football commentators could learn from them! This knowledge and the manner in which it is conveyed will draw in readers who may think books are not for them. However, the heart of the story and the part that gives this story its emotional impact is centred on Roy and his family.

Roy’s experiences and those of his father, mother and sister, and their relationships with each other, are touching and conveyed in a direct narrative style that matches Roy’s personality. He is an organised character, liking to feel in control of situations but at the same time with a strong sense of right and wrong. His values and attitudes are key to his coping strategy as he tries to keep his home situation separate from his football career. Sometimes a few words are more affecting than pages of descriptive introspection and in this book that approach works, moving this particular reader to tears in the final chapters. Tom Palmer manages to convey so much of Roy’s personality in a sentence or two. For example at a particularly difficult and emotional moment in the story he is given a lift home in a car, then, ‘’Roy climbed in, placing his feet carefully so he didn’t muddy the floor on the Mini.’’ Oh, Roy, I thought, as I read. I wanted to hug him.

This is a terrific football story but it is much more than that. It is about family, about love and about how to cope when those most important things are threatened. In the author’s thank you section at the end of the book Tom Palmer says that his dad liked books and now he’s in one. He’s in a good one.

Sudden Death is published on 30th September by Rebellion. Another in the series that you may enjoy is one featuring Roy’s sister Rocky. Among Tom Palmer’s historical novels is D-Day Dog which features a boy and his Dad. Tom’s excellent website also includes a range of resources and stacks of information about the Roy of the Rover series.

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The Book of Stolen Dreams by David Farr illustrations by Kristina Kister

Each time I sat down to read The Book of Stolen Dreams ‘for a few minutes’ it turned into an hour. This epic fantasy adventure is exhilarating, exciting and compelling but also, ultimately, moving. David Farr is probably best known as a theatre director and screenwriter for dramas such as The Night Manager and this is his first book for children. An intricate plot, fantastic characters and an imagined world that is both vivid and believable make this a thoroughly enjoyable reading experience.

Rachel and Robert live in the once happy and lively city of Brava in Krasnia, under the rule of cruel dictator Charles Malstain. When their librarian father enlists their help to steal a forbidden book, they are thrown into adventure which sees them separated, and each undertaking a dangerous journey to protect the book and its secrets. With their father captured, it is up to Rachel and Robert to track down the missing final page in order to save him. They will do anything to stop the book falling into Malstain’s hands, for if it does, he could rule forever.

Inspired by David Farr’s great aunt and uncle’s own story this is accomplished storytelling bringing to life a vivid world inspired by reality. Although never intended to be a representation of Nazi Germany Brasnia could portray any country under the control of a dictator. It has a chilling authenticity. The story contains important messages about the value of freedom of speech, thought and imagination, books and libraries. The passing on of an important book from parent to child in an old city library reminded me a little of the opening to The Shadow of the Wind by Carlos Ruiz Zafon. The secrets and mysteries hidden within libraries, book shops and books themselves are an enticing part of this adventure for book lovers of any age. However, central to Rachel and Robert’s journeys is family love and loyalty, compassion and bravery.

The narrative voice although third person feels intimate and confiding, encouraging the reader to become involved. The author’s writing is rich in detail, vocabulary and also in understanding. Those small details all mean something. The various threads beautifully entwine to create a story that contains moments of revelation and understanding for the reader. Each of the different strands and incidental characters all serve a purpose. This is a satisfying combination of epic adventure and coming of age story, of drama and quiet understanding. The importance of personal values and of having a moral compass is integral to the plot. Both Rachel and Robert mature and develop as a result of their experiences and the final stages of the story, by which time these two children have become so real, are extremely poignant.

The Book of Stolen Dreams would be a fabulous read for upper KS2 and KS3 readers. My proof copy is attractively presented however the published version will be hardback with illustrations by Kristina Kister and would be a wonderful present. The Book of Stolen Dreams is published on 30th September by Usborne Books. I should like to thank Fritha Lindqvist for my review proof copy.

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Reading Matters – children’s book news

Welcome to this week’s round up of children’s book news. It has been a busy week with the highlight being the announcement of the winner of the Klaus Flugge Prize. It is wonderful to see picture books being celebrated and highlighted and this award does a great job in raising the profile of this important element of children’s literature.

What I’m reading…

The Griffin Gate, Vashti Hardy’s first title for Barrington Stoke published last year was a big adventure packed into a small book so I had been looking forward to reading the sequel. The Puffin Portal, again illustrated by Natalie Smillie, is just as good as its predecessor and there is a third book to look forward to. Tiny Owl publish some wonderful picture books and this week I reviewed one of their recent titles, Gloria’s Porridge, which is inspired by a traditional Ethiopian folk tale which Elizabeth Laird heard during her travels in that country several years ago. The story is brought to life for children with humour and Toby Newsome’s eye catching, distinctive illustrations but imparts some sensible advice along the way.

My reading week has been dominated by The Book of Stolen Dreams by David Farr which I have just finished as I do the final edits to this week’s round up. The author is probably best known as a theatre director and screenwriter for dramas such as The Night Manager and this is his first book for children. Each time I sat down to read this ‘for a few minutes’ it turned into an hour. An intricate plot, fantastic characters and an imagined world that was both vivid and believable made this a thoroughly enjoyable reading experience. 2021 has been, I think, an incredible year for children’s books, there are many that will be my long term favourites.

News, articles and resources…

Books for Keeps September Issue – for many years this has been my first choice publication for children’s book information and reviews. This issue is full of brilliant articles so it’s difficult to highlight only one or two. A must read and an enjoyable one too.

Engaging less confident readers with reading for pleasure – The final instalment of The Reading Agency school librarian blog series comes from Éadaoin Quinn and includes her top five books for reluctant and less confident readers plus helpful advice.

Books for Topics: Primary Poetry Suggestions – National Poetry Day is coming up on 7th Oct and these lovely suggestions are suitable for children in Early Years up to Year 6.

We Have A Dream: Author and activist Dr Mya-Rose Craig on the young people changing the world – Dr Mya-Rose Craig is the author of We Have a Dream: Meet 30 Young Indigenous People and People of Colour Protecting the Planet. In this article Book Trust asked her about her environmental activism and what young people can do to get involved.

Take 10 author event, October 2021 – The Take 10 Challenge encourages people to read for just 10 minutes a day to improve their wellbeing and support their literacy. There are two free virtual author events at 9.45am on Friday 8 October for schools to sign up for, Tom Percival for Primary Schools and Louisa Reid for Secondary Schools. Full details are available via the link.

The Diverse Book Awards Shortlists – the books on the short lists in this award’s three categories, Children’s, YA and Adult, were announced this week. Congratulations to all the authors and we can find out who the winners are in a live online ceremony on 21st October.

FREE Remembrance Day project with author Tom Palmer, for years 5-8. – Leeds School Library Service have commissioned author Tom Palmer to write a story about Barnbow. An important part of the history of Leeds, Barnbow was a WW1 munitions factory, primarily staffed by women. On 5th December 1916 an explosion at the factory killed 35 women, yet due to the censorship of that time no account of the accident was made public. Aimed at Years 5-8, it will be told in 3 chapters. 1 chapter will be released daily, from 8th-10th November. On 11th November, Tom will run a virtual event, which all participating schools will be invited to.

Author and illustrator Lauren Child says children’s books should be taken seriously – an excellent article in the Guardian. The former children’s laureate launched her manifesto this week, in which she counters the assumption that work created for children is lesser.

World Book Day 2022 £1 Books – the organisers of World Book Day revealed the selection of books that children will be able to exchange for their WBD vouchers next year. They are divided into four categories and include both fiction and non-fiction. It is a great and varied line up this year.

Winner of Klaus Flugge Prize 2021 Announced – Shyness and monsters: the Klaus Flugge Prize for most exciting newcomer to children’s picture book illustration awarded to Flavia Z. Drago for Gustavo the Shy Ghost

Exploring Children’s Literature Podcast: Flavia Drago – Nikki Gamble interviews the winner of this year’s Klaus Flugge Prize and asks her about the influences and inspiration behind her award winning book. I enjoyed this very much and have discovered even more to enjoy in this charming book. An uplifting listen and highly recommended.

‘Comprehensive’ children’s book on Welsh history ‘a game changer’ says publisher – In History Grounded, Dr Elin Jones takes readers on a visual journey through over 5,000 years of history around the whole of Wales and is suitable for children 8-12 years old.

The Empathy Circle Launched – The Empathy Circle is a group of publishers that guides EmpathyLab’s work with the book industry, helping increase Empathy Day’s impact and supporting pilots such as the now established Author Empathy Masterclasses. You can find out more and read the pledges via the link.

Children’s Book Round Up: the best new picture books and novels – Imogen Russell Williams’ regular round ups are always helpful and highlight those special books you don’t want to miss. This new one is no exception and I was pleased to see Julia and the Shark included too.

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

SuperJoe Does Not Do Cuddles by Michael Catchpool illustrated by Emma Proctor – this new picture book from inclusive publishers, Lantana, sounds perfect. Fabia Turner describes it as “warm-hearted and humourous” in her lovely review and Fabia’s six year old son gets to ask the author and illustrator some questions too.

Storm in a Jar by Samuel Langley-Swain & Katie Cottle – Kate Heap says this picture book is one of those must-have picture books for dealing with an important but sensitive issue – grief. Suitable for all ages, it will prompt so much discussion and support. Her review explains how.

Danger at Dead Man’s Pass by M.G. Leonard and Sam Sedgman – I think it’s interesting to get an author’s view of a book and this immensely readable review by LH Johnson, author of How To Be Brave, provides an insight. In fact she says, “It’s not easy to write books like this…And yet M.G. Leonard and Sam Sedgman deliver every time. It is such impressive work and I admire them immensely for it.”

The Adventures of Team POM: Squid Happens by Isabel Roxas – the popularity of graphic novels is increasingly being highlighted by librarians and teachers so this new series is one to watch out for. The review on A Word About Books provides a taste, ‘’Roxas’ wild, wacky and wonderful ideas are all beautifully presented in illustrations that deliver non-stop action and zing with personality.’’

That’s everything for this week and I hope you have found something helpful among the links I’ve shared. My weekend plans include reading Books for Keeps, plus the latest issue of CILIP’s Pen and Inc magazine and starting Sudden Death, Tom Palmer’s new book due out this week. I hope you have a happy weekend however you are spending it.

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Winner of the Klaus Flugge Prize 2021 Announced

Flavia Z. Drago has won the 2021 Klaus Flugge Prize for the most exciting and promising newcomer to children’s picture book illustration. She won for her book Gustavo the Shy Ghost (Walker Books) about a little ghost who despite being so shy he is invisible to the other monsters, eventually finds a way to make friends.

Established in 2016, the Klaus Flugge Prize was founded to honour publisher Klaus Flugge, a supremely influential figure in picture books. Flugge set up Andersen Press in 1976 and has discovered and nurtured many of today’s most distinguished illustrators including David McKee, Tony Ross, Satoshi Kitamura, Ruth Brown and Susan Varley.

The Klaus Flugge Prize judges loved the balance of fun and fright in Gustavo, The Shy Ghost, and admired Flavia’s superb control of pace and the composition of her illustrations. Judge and winner of the 2020 Klaus Flugge Prize, Eva Eland says: “There is so much to admire and enjoy in Flavia’s book…She delivers a powerful and universal story, whilst maintaining a light-heartedness and a playful touch that will speak to many little children.”

On receiving the prize, Flavia Z. Drago said, “I feel incredibly happy and honoured to have won this year’s Klaus Flugge Prize! Getting my first picture book published was a dream that started about ten years ago. The journey was filled with ups and downs, rejection, uncertainty, and constant learning. I am so grateful to my lovely team in Walker Books for giving me the opportunity to make a story about shyness and monsters, and for having allowed me to share a glimpse of Mexico and its most beautiful celebration (The Day of the Dead) with the rest of the world. Making picture books is a privilege and joy, and I hope that I will be able to keep doing this for many years to come.

Alongside Eva Eland, the judges are Posy Simmonds writer and illustrator, Darryl Clifton, Illustration Programme Director at Camberwell College of Arts; Fleur Sinclair, owner of Sevenoaks Bookshop; and Mat Tobin of Oxford Brookes University. Julia Eccleshare, director of the Children’s Programme at the Hay Festival, is Chair of the Judges.

Judge, Mat Tobin, interviewed Flavia earlier this month and their conversation provides a lovely insight into the inspiration for the book, the illustrative technique and Flavia’s plans for the future.

This year’s shortlist was, I thought, particularly strong and the wide range of subjects and the varied styles are a wonderful indication of the strength and depth of picturebooks at the moment. My own copy of Gustavo will now have pride of place on my bookshelves. By happy coincidence the announcement of the Klaus Flugge Prize winner comes a week after the publication of the report by the Centre of Literacy for Primary Education on the Power of Pictures project as part of children’s learning. The findings revealed that picture books are an important genre of children’s literature and not just a step on the route to chapter books. The Klaus Flugge Prize both celebrates and promotes the very best of new and exciting illustrators and their books. Definitely a cause for celebration!

More information about the award, this year’s shortlisted titles and previous winners is available on the official website.

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Gloria’s Porridge by Elizabeth Laird illustrated by Toby Newsome

Gloria’s Porridge is inspired by a traditional Ethiopian folk tale which Elizabeth Laird heard during her travels in that country several years ago. The story is brought to life for children with humour and Toby Newsome’s eye catching, distinctive illustrations but imparts some sensible advice along the way.

When Gloria is making porridge one day she is so hungry that she decides that she will keep it all to herself, even when Cat, who is hungry too, asks her for some. When Gloria goes to fetch some water to add to the porridge Cat takes matters into his own hands and decides to help himself to a little of it. A little soon turns in to a lot and by the time Gloria returns Cat has eaten all the porridge! Gloria is angry and the frightened Cat rushes out of the door. He in turn frightens the donkey and in no time there is chaos and disruption. Perhaps wise Fox can put things right?

Gloria’s Porridge is an appealing picture book; the colourful front cover full of smiles is tempting and the text has a lively, bounce to it which would make it fun to read aloud. Like many traditional tales it has a message to impart to its readers and listeners. Young children will see the repercussions from one small act and how it can cause problems for others. This is a tricky topic for them to understand but in this form is easier for them to relate to. There is also the opportunity to talk about sharing what we have with others.

The story itself has its origins in Ethiopia however Toby Newsome was born in South Africa and his lovely illustrations are inspired by his surroundings there. This provides a mix of the different cultures within this picture book. The original folk tale which prompted Elizabeth Laird to write this book is called The Bear and the Woman and can be found on the Ethiopian Folk Tales website. This is an excellent resource if you are wanting to discover more traditional stories. There are also a range of activities and teaching resources linked to the book on the Tiny Owl website.

Gloria’s Porridge was published in May 2021 by Tiny Owl and is available to purchase on their website. Tiny Owl produce some delightful picture books for young children and for little ones just discovering the joy of books I can recommend Where’s Baby Elephant by Ali Khodai.

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The Puffin Portal by Vashti Hardy illustrated by Natalie Smillie

The Griffin Gate, Vashti Hardy’s first title for Barrington Stoke published last year was a big adventure packed into a small book so I had been looking forward to reading this sequel. The Puffin Portal has all the appeal of its predecessor plus a likeable new character to get to know too. The latest instalment of this enjoyable steampunk fantasy is another hit.

Cover illustration by Natalie Smillie

Grace Griffin has now qualified as warden and is enjoying working with her family to fight crime across Moreland using the Griffin Map to teleport through the land. Grace has been allocated the task of solving a series of odd, small thefts that have been happening and the only apparent link is the sighting of a small bird near the scene of the crime. The resourceful Grace refuses to give up and eventually follows the clues to a dilapidated castle on a lonely island accompanied by her trusty companion, Watson the robot raven. Once there her detective skills uncover something rather unexpected.

There is much for children to enjoy in this enjoyable story. There are clues to solve, an engaging lead character in Grace, humour, wacky inventions, and ultimately a lesson in kindness, friendship and what family really means. Natalie Smillie’s illustrations capture the personalities so well and bring the plot to life for young readers. This is a great package and perfect for children who would find fantasy adventures of 300 pages plus daunting. The Puffin Portal contains all the elements of a full blown adventure in a manageable format. I can see this series being popular in primary school libraries and classrooms.

Vashti Hardy, a former teacher, has created a selection of downloadable resources and ideas for creative class work which are available on her website. This book has a dyslexia-friendly layout, typeface and paperstock so that even more readers can enjoy it. It has been edited to a reading age of 8.

I should like to thank Barrington Stoke for providing my review copy. The Puffin Portal was published on 2nd September and can be purchased via their website. You can read the first chapter below and my review of The Griffin Gate here.

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Reading Matters – children’s book news

Hello and welcome to another look back at what has been happening in the world of children’s books this week.

What I’m reading…

Last weekend I read The Hideaway by Pam Smy and am stilling thinking about the story a week later. It is a book with a profound emotional impact. My review includes a link to Nikki Gamble’s excellent interview with Pam Smy on the In the Reading Corner podcast.

Scallywag Press are doing a wonderful job of reissuing classic picture books and bringing gems to another generation of young readers. The Three Happy Lions is a lovely example being both retro in style and relevant in content and theme. I am fond of this book. This week I have been reading the books that I have to review for the next issue of the School Library Association magazine, TSL, and among them is His Royal Hopeless a debut by Chloe Perrin. I have included Lily’s review below to give you a taste and find out why this story made me smile.

This week the CILIP Youth Libraries Group Virtual Conference takes place with the theme Representations of Place – New Lands and New Ways of Looking. I have only been able to watch a few sessions live but am looking forward to catching up with the others in the coming days. I found the session on The Place of Picture Books in Translation with school librarian Melanie McGilloway and Greet Pauwelijn of Book Island Books extremely interesting and have included a link they shared in the resources below.

News, articles and resources…

Outside In World – this helpful website was shared in the Picture Books in Translation session mentioned above. It promotes and explores world literature and children’s books in translation. There are booklists, activities, articles and resources for educators and an interactive section for children too. It’s well worth exploring.

Using graphic novels in the classroom to engage students – an interesting and helpful article by teacher Richard Ruddick for Education Platform UK providing tips and suggestions.

Down the Rabbit Hole – the episode on 28th September at 5pm is a celebration of Black writing, with four fantastic contributors to Knights Of’s middle grade anthology Happy Here taking part in the programme. You can listen on Resonance FM and details are included in the link.

Malorie Blackman: ‘Hope is the spark’ – wonderful interview for the Guardian by Sian Cain. Our former Children’s Laureate about her award winning Noughts and Crosses series and how she persevered through rejection.

Nominations for the School Librarian of the Year Award – this year for the first time there are separate categories for Primary and Secondary. Do you know a school librarian who is making a positive impact on reading and learning? Now is the chance to highlight their work and raise the profile of school librarians. Nominations close on 31st October.

Kids need two things – love and education’ – how former footballer and now TV pundit Ian Wright and author Musa Okwonga are inspiring young people through fiction. An eye opening and hopeful article.

Poetry books for children – with National Poetry Day approaching on 7th October, children’s book expert, Joy Court, recommends her top titles to bring poetry alive in the primary classroom on the Primary English Education Consultancy website.

Hay Festival Winter Weekend Programme for Schools – this special Hay Festival event has live sessions for pupils in Key Stages 2&3 with exciting writers and thought provoking performances for young people and a brilliant line up. All events are free to view live online or to watch again free on Hay Player Aspiring writers in Wales aged 16-18 can apply now for the free #BeaconsProject residency at this event. Find out more here.

Laugh Out Loud Book Awards Event Week – The Laugh Out Loud Book Awards (the Lollies) celebrates the best and funniest children’s books in the UK and Ireland, voted for by children. Lollies Event Week begins on the 20th September and features writing activities, drawalongs and readings from the shortlisted authors and illustrators, as well as previous winners Liz Pichon and Michelle Robinson, and Head Judge Michael Rosen. You can see the full programme and register via the link above.

Picture Book Den: Fury at the Farm (with Mini Grey) – an excellent and thought provoking post by Mini Grey on the depiction of farms in picture books in contrast to the reality. And the story of Doris at the end of the article is wonderful.

Authorfy Masterclass with SF Said – a set of 10 videos for children all about writing & Varjak Paw, complete with creative writing challenges.

The Klaus Flugge Prize Shortlist 2021 Illustrator Blogposts – on Wednesday 22 September the winner of this award will be announced. Until then, you can discover more about the five fabulous shortlisted illustrators on the official website above.

The Festival of Reading 2021 – a free online celebration of reading running from Monday 27th – Thursday 30th September daily from 3.15pm – 5.30pm. A team of top authors, leading literacy experts and experienced teachers will provided practical and inspiring ideas on how you can raise reading attainment and enjoyment in your schools.

Sainsbury’s Children’s Book Awards 2021 – these awards, now in their eighth year, aim to encourage parents and carers to spend more time reading with their children. The winners were announced on Thursday and congratulations to all the winners but most especially to Lu Fraser and Kate Hindley whose The Littlest Yak won Book of the Year and Best Picture Book. My assistant reviewer will be delighted!

How to encourage reading for pleasure on a budget – an excellent article by the current School Librarian of the Year, Kristabelle Williams, providing inspiration, advice and top tips.

Kate DiCamillo and Abi Elphinstone in conversation with Katherine Woodfine – this should be an absolute treat and not to be missed, plus it’s free! Celebrate these fantastic authors as they discuss their latest books, The Beatryce Prophecy and The Crackledawn Dragon with this one off virtual event. If you can’t make the live event time it will be recorded so you can watch afterwards at a convenient time. This event is in association with the National Literacy Trust.

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

Polly Pecorino by Emma Chichester Clark – illustrated fiction is wonderful for encouraging readers in the 7-9 age group and this sounds just the job. This sounds like the Sophie books by Dick King Smith for a new generation. A lovely review by Louise Nettleton.

Mason Mooney: Doppelganger Detective by Seaerra Miller – if the Richard Ruddick article linked above has inspired you then this great review by Paul Watson will appeal. Paul describes this graphic novel published this month as a ‘witty, smart outing for that annoying paranormal detective, Mason Mooney.’ He also mentions the benefits of using this in the classroom.

Locked Out Lily by Nick Lake and Emily Gravett – John Lloyd has been reviewing children’s books for The Bookbag for many years and he lets you know when he does not like a book. He liked this one. ‘It’s a quite splendid mix, all told – a very readable book covering serious topics’ Any story that can be described as ‘Coraline in the Willows’ intrigues me.

His Royal Hopeless by Chloe Perrin – this comprehensive review by Lily on the Lily and the Fae blog explains how this amusing debut made her daughters giggle but has a reassuring message too. I love Lily’s description ‘’a Disney- Pixar movie but in book form’’ as I know exactly what she means.

That’s everything for this week. My weekend plans include today’s YLG conference session with Hilary McKay and Phil Earle, the authors of two of my favourite books of the year, and reading more of The Book of Stolen Dreams. I’ve just started this but already intrigued. I hope you have a lovely weekend. Happy reading!

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The Three Happy Lions by Louise Fatio illustrated by Roger Duvoisin

The Three Happy Lions is the third book in this classic series by husband and wife team, Louise Fatio and Roger Duvoisin. First published in 1959 and republished this year by Scallywag Press, this gentle story has a charming retro appeal to both the text and illustrations, however the message it conveys is both important and timeless.

There was once ONE happy Lion…he was joined by a second happy lion and in this story the two happy lions welcome a baby happy lion. Their happiness is now complete and the two proud parents are delighted with their new cub. He is named Francois, after their best friend, the zoo keeper’s son. All is well but then, for the first time in his life, the Happy Lion starts to worry. He wonders what the future holds for the baby lion. What job should he do when he grows up to keep him happy?

Various possibilities are discussed and dismissed by the two happy lions until a rich lady visiting the zoo decides that Francois will be her pet. When this does not work out well due to his increasing size Francois joins the circus where he struggles in his efforts to roar and be scary because he likes people and does not want to frighten them. Finally he returns to the zoo to do what he has always wanted. He will be a gardening assistant alongside Francois the keeper’s son, tending and nurturing the flowers and trees.

As soon as I opened this book and started to read I was a little girl again, transported back in time, not so much by the words initially, but most definitely by the illustrations. The overall look of this book is distinctive. The artwork by Duvoisin, although using a limited palette, is bold, colourful and graphic in appearance with much detail for children to pore over. There are several spreads in black and white and there is a real feel of movement on some of the pages. The animals are depicted with humour and a child friendly appeal but have a realistic appearance too, it is beautifully done.

The French settings and the occasional French words are a brilliant way of introducing young children to the language and culture of another country in a natural manner. It is the book’s thoughtful message that adds a greater depth to this charming story. Francois the young lion does not want to conform to what many would think of as the way he ‘should’ behave and live his life. He learns what matters most to him and what makes him happy and fulfilled and is, eventually, able to achieve this. That his loving parents support him in this decision makes the ending a supremely happy one.

As you can probably tell I am fond of this lovely book and am delighted that Scallywag Press have been wise enough to enable a new generation of readers to meet the happy lions and enjoy their adventures. The publishers have a range of activities and teaching resources linked to The Three Happy Lions on their website which include an audio of some of the French vocabulary. Love My Books has an excellent selection of suggested activities linked to the book on their website plus a video of the first story in the series read aloud. This would be a perfect book for children in early years settings and the infant stage of school but does have, I think, an appeal for many.

I should like to thank Laura Smythe and Scallywag Press for providing my review copy.

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