Reading Matters – children’s book news

Welcome to this week’s look at what has been happening in the world of children’s books. As many schools are now busy with end of term events with little time for children’s book news or may have already broken up this will be the last Reading Matters of this school year. Thank you to everyone who has commented, pointed me in the direction of useful items or said hello as the best part of this weekly round up for me is the book chat it prompts.

In case it’s of help to families, this week I have included a section on summer reading with a focus on book related activities, reading challenges and suggested titles which may help to encourage children to read for pleasure over the holiday.

What I’m reading…

The Chronicles of Narnia were among my favourite books as a child, particularly The Lion, The Witch and the Wardrobe which I read several times. Thanks to the Narniathon organised by Chris Lovegrove over the last few months I have revisited both Narnia and my childhood memories. It has taught me a great deal about how we read, the experience we bring to a story and how that affects our understanding and enjoyment and, most importantly, the emotional difference between reading as an adult and as a child. As the Narniathon nears its end I’m reading From Spare Oom to War Drobe in which Katherine Langrish does an impressive job of discussing the series through the lens of her nine year old self and now as an adult with a critical literary eye. I’m enjoying this immensely and would highly recommend it.

A couple of picture books have made me smile this week. The Roar by Eoin McLaughlin and Polly Dunbar (Faber 7th July) is the latest in the series about friends Hedgehog and Tortoise. Poor Tortoise has a case of the grumps as life just doesn’t seem to be going well for him and when Hedgehog tries to help Tortoise’s irritation escalates to full blown anger. Both text and illustrations capture the difficulties we may experience in expressing ourselves and this would be a helpful book for encouraging young children to understand their emotions and manage them more effectively. Family and Me! by Michaela Dias-Hayes (Owlet Press 14th July) is brimful of happiness and is a wonderful celebration of a little girl, her family and her heritage. Each page shows how features, talents, skills and attitudes are passed down through the generations and conveys love and acceptance in abundance.

News, articles and resources…

Just Imagine Reading Gladiators Now Subscription Free – the award-winning reading Gladiators book club is now subscription free for primary schools across the globe. Well organised types may like to join up now for access to resources for 108 books selected for years 2 – 6. Alternatively bookmark this link to refer back to for the next academic year. The link above takes you to an introductory video providing full details.

CLiPPA 2022 Live from Southbank Centre – if you were unable to get to the CLiPPA award ceremony last week you can join in all the excitement with the poets, the judges and the participating schools via the CLPE YouTube channel linked above. This might be fun to share in schools during the last days of term.

Andrea Reece: The CLiPPA, Proving Poetry is a Must For Every Child – this great article by Andrea conveys the positive and joyful effects of poetry on children through the CLiPPA shadowing scheme and the events linked to the award which have taken place this year.

Book Trust: New children’s books we love – the July selection from the Book Trust team range from Cluck, Cluck, Duck from Mama Makes Books, a jolly board book rated highly by my friend’s baby granddaughter to Needle by Patrice Lawrence, a story for teens from Barrington Stoke which I found a compelling and unforgettable read..

Literacy Hive: The Literacy Year Calendar of Events – plan your literacy year with this searchable database of events, festivals, awards and awareness days.

YLG Conference Bookings Open – It’s time to book your tickets to the 2022 CILIP Youth Libraries Group Conference. 16-18 SEP 2022 YLG is coming to Sheffield for Reading the Planet: Libraries in a Changing Climate. Alongside the in person conference YLG be offering a virtual programme for those who cannot travel or who cannot afford the full conference. Those who sign up for the live conference will be able to access the virtual sessions for free. Full details and a programme of events to download are available via the link.

Kerry Hudson: School librarians saved me – Scotland can’t afford to lose them – excellent article by author Kerry Hudson on the many varied and vital roles of the school librarian both educational and pastoral. This article was prompted by the North Lanarkshire plans to make their secondary school librarians redundant. As Kerry says, “But, the people they are making redundant don’t just order and organise books. They have a whole other role. They are trusted and represent safety. Safety for kids who are struggling.”

Branford Boase Award Winner Announcement – on Thursday 14 July at an award ceremony at CLPE it was announced that Maisie Chan is the winner of the 2022 Branford Boase Award for the year’s outstanding debut novel for children for her comic, family story Danny Chung Does Not Do Maths, about an 11-year-old whose life is turned upside down by his growing friendship with his grandmother, newly arrived from China. The award is shared with Chan’s editor, Georgia Murray, of Piccadilly Press. You may like to read the interviews with Maisie Chan and Georgia Murray and the other shortlisted authors and editors here.

An evening with Dom Conlon and Anastasia Izlesou – this was a relaxing, thoughtful and fascinating way to spend an hour or so on Thursday evening as we joined together online to celebrate the launch of Grow, Tree, Grow. Nikki Gamble has now made this available to all via the link above and it is well worth watching.

Book Blast with Nikki Gamble Summer Dates – these excellent sessions provide a sneak preview of the best of the new children’s books being published each month. Book Blast July/August will be streaming on 29th July at 7.00. And Book Blast August/September will live stream on 31st August. Links are posted to social channels a week before the event so do look out for them over the summer holidays. The link above will take you to Nikki’s previous Book Blast videos and if you have been too busy to watch these over the school year you will probably find these interesting and helpful too.

Summer Reading Ideas

2022 ‘Gadgeteers’ Summer Reading Challenge Book Collection – This year’s Summer Reading Challenge book collection features 67 inspiring titles for different reading levels encompassing picture books, early readers and middle grade titles, with fiction, non-fiction, poetry, and graphic novels included. The books all engage with the key Gadgeteers themes of everyday science, invention and creation and fun with friends. You can explore the lists via the link above.

Summer Reading Challenge x StoryTrails – StoryTrails is a unique, immersive storytelling experience. It aims to allow local people to experience their town in a completely new way through immersive technology, including augmented and virtual reality. People will be able to use this new technology to travel back in time, experiencing untold histories from their local community. This pack brings together StoryTrails and the Summer Reading Challenge, providing activities to help children and young people explore the themes of innovation, technology and immersive storytelling. Full details free to download via the link.

Books For Topics Summer Reading Bingo – A reading bingo challenge to keep children motivated to read over the summer holidays. The focus is on reading for pleasure experiences rather than specific texts, with activities like make a den and read inside, read in the dark using a torch and read to a pet or a soft toy. Children can choose what they read for the challenges, although Alison Leach at Books for Topics has included some Summer 2022 recommended reads for those looking for new ideas.

Books for Topics Summer 2022 Recommended Reads – These recommended reads linked above will be helpful if parents or children are asking for suggestions of specific titles. They are divided into age categories.

The Week Junior Summer of Reading Challenge – Participants are invited to read, rate and review three books over the summer. A fantastic booklist is supplied for inspiration with 50 great titles chosen in partnership with The Book Trust. Reviews must be submitted via their entry form before the closing deadline at midnight on Friday 26 August. One lucky winner will receive a book bundle worth £250 plus a Bookily card from National Book Tokens, loaded with £10 per month for 6 months to spend in their favourite bookshops and online. Three runners up will also each win a Bookily card loaded with £10 per month for 6 months.

Summer of Reading Resources – last year the Reading Agency out together this collection of resources and they are just as useful this year. There are read-alongs, games, quizzes, book clubs and lots more activities to keep families occupied over the summer holidays.

15 Excellent Summer Reading Ideas for Young Readers
– former school librarian of the year, Lucas Maxwell has written an excellent article for Book Riot giving suggestions on how to encourage reading over the summer holiday. The majority focus on making reading fun and include competitions and ‘Surprise Reads’.

Brilliant Children’s Books to Read this Summer – the LoveReading4Kids team has been gathering together a fantastic selection of books. These include beach reads, back garden reads and brilliant bedtime reads. Lots of fascinating non-fiction titles to keep your young ones interested…and children always love an activity book…perfect to keep them occupied on a long journey. Definitely worth a browse!

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

Saving the World: Our Story Starts in Africa by Patrice Lawrence; and Scientists are Saving the World by Saskia Gwinn and Ana Albero – reviews by Ben Harris are always worth reading and this week he shared two excellent new books published by Magic Cat. When Ben says, “I can’t praise these two books more highly…” you know they are worth investigating.

Orla and the Wild Hunt by Anna Hoghton -The second children’s novel by Anna Hoghton, author of The Mask of Aribella follows two siblings in a quest to overcome their grief and find their missing gran. In her review Kate Heap says, “Dark folklore combines with the unbreakable spirit of children to create a story packed full of peril, sacrifice, loyalty, friendship and love.

Well, that’s it for the time being. Thank you for reading and a special thank you to those who get in touch to comment or share online. I hope that everyone has a happy and relaxing summer with family and friends.

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Reading Matters – children’s book news

Welcome to this week’s look at what has been happening in the world of children’s books. Of course the highlight has undoubtedly been the announcement of our new Children’s Laureate, Joseph Coelho. What an inspired choice! I was lucky to attend the Federation of Children’s Book Groups conference in April at which Joseph was a member of the Poetry Panel hosted by Nikki Gamble and was impressed by his thoughtful comments then. The next two years should be exciting as he embarks on his mission to highlight poetry, new talent and libraries.

Unfortunately there was some disappointing news too as we learned that the Blue Peter Children’s Book Awards have ceased. This prompted many online discussions on the subject and it was heartening to see people such as author Elle McNicol responding with positive plans for new awards. Children’s books receive little enough attention in the main stream media as it is and awards do much to raise their profile so are much needed.

What I’m reading…

This week I was transported to the Lake District of the 1940s courtesy of Cuckoo Summer by Jonathan Tulloch. This is a lovely story full of brilliant, believable characters, sparky dialogue between the two children and running through the whole book a love of the landscape in which the children live. This is a Second World War story for children with a subtly different tone. First and foremost Cuckoo Summer is about the friendship between the two children and the importance of family and community to them both in very different ways.

On Thursday evening I attended the final event in Nikki Gamble’s Audience with series and she ended in grand style with Jon Klassen. Jon was entertaining, interesting and amusing, despite having Covid. Listening to him read The Rock From the Sky was a brilliant example of the importance of reading picturebooks aloud to all ages. It was probably a good job the audience was muted at this point as I was helpless with giggles! A wonderful event. Nikki will be back in the autumn and I can wholeheartedly recommend these events.

News, articles and resources…

New Children’s Laureate Announcement – Award-winning poet, playwright and author Joseph Coelho was announced as new Waterstones Children’s Laureate this week. Joseph Coelho also performed a new poem at the ceremony written to mark the occasion, entitled ‘The Power of a Poem’ and there is a video of Joseph performing the poem in the article linked above. His Laureateship will focus on three main areas: showcase new talent within the industry and spotlight their work, celebrate the power of poetry in all its forms and champion local libraries, highlighting the vital role they play within the community and inspiring a love of reading in young people.

Children’s books world reacts to ‘horrible loss’ of Blue Peter book awards – Guardian article focusing on the reaction to the announcement that these popular awards for children’s books are ending.

Scholastic expands The Lollies after closure of Blue Peter Book Awards – The Lollies originally started in 2015 after the Roald Dahl Funny Prize came to an end. They celebrate the best and funniest children’s books in the UK and Ireland annually, with the winners decided by children’s votes. The awards will now have categories for Best Laugh Out Loud Poetry Book, Non-Fiction Book, Book for Teens/YA and Illustrator of the Year.

Mr Dilly Meets – Big Kids Summer Reading Bonanza! – Free Big Summer Reading Bonanza online event for primary schools with live chat from Anna Fargher, Henry White & Aisha Bushby. Tuesday 12 July 2022 11:00 – 12:15 It’s not too late to book for this event next week and more information and details of how to register can be found via the link above.

Announcing the English-language Wales Book of the Year Short List 2022 – Awarding across four categories in both Welsh and English –Poetry, Fiction, Creative Non-fiction and Children & Young People– the Wales Book of the Year Award celebrates some of the best literary works in the previous calendar year.   The Children and Young People category shortlist is made up of three excellent books: Daydreams and Jellybeans, Alex Wharton The Shark Caller, Zillah Bethell and The Valley of Lost Secrets, Lesley Parr.

The Winners Of the UKLA Awards Announced – the teachers’ highest accolade went to Carnegie winner Katya Balen for October, October. This year saw the first ever joint winners in 3-6+ category and it was great to see diverse and inclusive choices celebrated. You can read more about the winning books in each category on the UKLA website linked above.

Audio interview with Nigel Gray author of Phyllis and Grace – this is definitely worth a listen. First is the beautiful review of Nigel Gray’s tender picture book illustrated by Bethan Welby on the Living Arts Canberra website and then a thoughtful and interesting conversation with Nigel about the inspiration for this picture book exploring the subject of dementia through the eyes of a friendly, little girl. Nigel also discusses his life of activism and interest in social justice.

Anna McQuinn: The Inspiring Beauty of Kanga – I’m a big fan of Anna McQuinn’s picture book series featuring Lulu and Zeki and have noticed the amount of detail included by the illustrators, Rosalind Beardshaw and Ruth Hearson, However this fascinating article by Anna about the background to the stunning African fabrics and patterns incorporated into the story has made me look anew at these lovely picture books.

Just Imagine: A Planet of Plants by Roy Moss – Roy’s latest blog explores the portrayal and role of plants in children’s fiction and non-fiction and is an informative read. It includes input from authors Yarrow Townsend and Skye McKenna and links to suggestions of further reading. A subject clearly dear to Roy’s heart and I’ve added some more books to my wish list.

Non-fiction is fabulous: encouraging reading across the curriculum – the always excellent Herts for Learning Primary English blog explores some of the best new non-fiction for children and provides advice on its use in the classroom.

Love My Books Summer Newsletter – a special newsletter marking the 7th birthday of this excellent website. Both the site and the newsletter are packed with book based resources for families, schools and early years settings to promote reading for pleasure. This month’s book in focus is Pirate Stew by Neil Gaiman, illustrated by Chris Riddell plus there are six great ideas for summer-long story fun and much more.

Young Quills winners 2022 – the Historical Association this week announced the 2022 competition winners for Young Quills Awards for Historical Fiction for children and young adults. Many congratulations to Ages 5–9 years category The Chessmen Thief by Barbara Henderson,
Ages 10–13 years category: The Swallows’ Flight by Hilary McKay, 14+ years category: We Played With Fire by Catherine Barter. Full details of the shortlisted books plus the background to the award can be found above.

CLiPPA – The CLPE Poetry Award Winner – it has been a good week for children’s poetry and yesterday Valerie Bloom won the 2022 CLiPPA (CLPE Children’s Poetry Award) with a collection described as “a passport to the whole world.” Stars with Flaming Tails is an inspiring collection invites all children to engage with poetry. The award was announced live by Michael Rosen at the Southbank Centre’s Queen Elizabeth Hall at an exuberant Poetry Show attended by and starring children from schools across the UK.

The Alligator’s Mouth Award for illustrated early fiction – Pippa Curnick has won The Alligator’s Mouth Award 2022 with her book Indigo Wilde and the Creatures at Jellybean Crescent, published by Hodder Children’s Books. Celebrating highly illustrated fiction, the award is run by The Alligator’s Mouth bookshop and the Bright Agency, in association with Gardners Books. Pippa Curnick was awarded The Alligator’s Mouth trophy during a special awards ceremony
at The Bright Agency on Thursday 7th July.

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

Dinos Don’t Give Up! by Smriti Halls Illustrated by Richard Merritt – a book of the month on the LoveReading4Kids website this sounds like great fun but with a positive message about having fun even when you can’t win at everything. In her review Andrea Reece says, “Little Dinah is a fun and inspiring companion and this is an entertaining and positive story.”

The Whale Watchers by Dougie Poynter illustrated by Amberin Huq – Owlet Press publish some excellent picture books so there first children’s novel was already on my book radar but thanks to this great review by Tom Griffiths I have shuffled it up my to read list. Tom describes it as “a must-have title for school and home bookshelves.”

The Midnighters – Hana Tooke – I didn’t know much about this title until I read Richard Simpson’s enthusiastic review and really like the sound of this “funny, feelgood, gripping fantasy…perfect for fans of Katherine Rundell and Kirsty Applebaum…”

Curious Creatures Working With Tools by Zoe Armstrong Illustrated by Anja Susanj – Information books about animals have a broad appeal and can be popular in school libraries for both reading for pleasure and for information and this new title reviewed for Just Imagine by Erin Hamilton. Erin says, “An absolutely fascinating look at animals and their use of tools that help them survive and thrive in their own habitats. Children are generally keen to learn more about animals and this is a new perspective that will ignite some brilliant discussions about the use of tools by humans and animals.’

That’s everything for this week and I hope that something included here has been of interest or helpful to you. Next week sees the award ceremony for the Branford Boase Award which I’m very much looking forward to. Happy reading!

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Cuckoo Summer by Jonathan Tulloch

Set in the Lake District in 1940 Cuckoo Summer is a beautiful novel of friendship, secrets, loyalty and childhood innocence, bringing to life both the people and the landscape of fells and tarns of the author’s beloved Lakeland.

Cover art by Louise Billyard

Cuckoo Summer tells the story of local boy Tommy whose family have been farmers on the fells for generations. Tommy’s Dad is missing while on active service in the war and Tommy lives on the family farm with his Aunties. Into this world his new friend Sally, an evacuee who lives on the neighbouring farm, appears like a breath of fresh air, full of jokes, chat and bravado, she is the type of child that others follow. So when Sally tells Tommy about the wounded Nazi airman in the woods Tommy is persuaded not to report it but to help Sally keep him hidden. This results in a chain of events that expose the children to danger and uncover secrets about Sally’s past.

This is a lovely story full of brilliant, believable characters, sparky dialogue between the two children and running through the whole book a love of the landscape in which the children live. The descriptions of the setting, the tarns and the wildflowers all bring the world to life as the reader is drawn into the adventure. Inspired by the stories the author heard about his mother’s childhood on a Lakeland farm and wartime events in the area Cuckoo Summer has an authenticity and a sense of time and place that ensures this historical fiction is credible. Jonathon Tulloch has recreated rural life of the time and also highlighted the local dialects of both Tommy’s family and Sally’s native Tyneside. Sally’s language took me a little while to get used to but would give teachers who like ‘doing the voices’ during a class read aloud a chance to shine! I also enjoyed learning how to count sheep in the traditional way, Yan, Tan, Tethera…

There is an innocence to the children’s attitude to the wounded airman and the accompanying press release for the book mentions the suitability for fans of Whistle Down the Wind and I can well understand why. Sally, despite her carefree attitude to life and her situation, displays a kindness to the injured enemy that is touching. The cast of characters include Tom’s Auntie Annie whose stoical but caring attitude is in sharp contrast to the bitter, anger displayed by Mr Scarcross. He is a villain in the mould of some of the worst in children’s literature and quite terrifying at times. I grew fond of some of the characters and think that Silent Simon who works on the Scarcross farm deserves a story of his own.

This is a Second World War story for children with a subtly different tone. First and foremost Cuckoo Summer is about the friendship between the two children and the importance of family and community to them both in very different ways. I enjoyed reading this and would recommend it to readers of about 9+.

I should like to thank Jonathon Tulloch and Andersen Press for my review copy. Cuckoo Summer is published on 7th July and is available to purchase at your local independent bookshop or online at

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Reading Matters – children’s book news

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

What I’m reading…

The Dragon in the Bookshop by Ewa Jozefkowicz is a story told with tenderness and understanding and yet is also an exciting adventure blended with Polish legend. Yesterday I was delighted to kick off the blog tour to mark its publication and you can read Ewa’s thoughtful guest article here and find out about the important work being done by the charity Grief Encounter.

This week has been dominated by the books that I have been sent to read and review for the next issue of TSL, the quarterly magazine for members of the School Library Association. I mentioned Writes of Passage: Words to Read Before You Turn 13 Selected by Nicolette Jones last week and am still enjoying referring back to this wonderful book. It is going to be well thumbed I think! There were two lovely picture books that I would like to draw attention to also, Flooded by Mariajo Ilustrajo and A Stone Sat Still by Brendan Wenzel. Flooded is a delightful combination of entertaining humour and thoughtful commentary on community spirit and climate change. A Stone Sat Still explores themes of perspective and natural habitat in an accessible manner. Both of these books would be perfect to share, to read aloud and to prompt conversation and linked activities and are ideal for either home or school. Also among my TSL selection was The Story of Babur – Prince, Emperor, Sage retold for children by the Nepalese children’s author, Anuradha and richly illustrated by Jane Ray. There are aspects which resonate strongly today for example the setting in the beautiful cities of Afghanistan has a disturbing poignancy.

News, articles and resources…

Books are My Bag: Indie Book Awards Winners – the winners in each category of these awards were announced last week and special congratulations to Joseph Coelho and Allison Colpoys who won the Picture Book category with My Beautiful Voice, and Jason Reynolds and Akhran Girmay whose When I Was the Greatest was the Children’s Fiction winner.

Winners of the Children’s Book Award 2022 – Peter Bently and Steven Lenton have been named overall winners of The Children’s Book Award 2022. Their book Octopus Shocktopus! also won the Books for Younger Children category before going on to win the overall prize. The Highland Falcon Thief written by M G Leonard and Sam Sedgman, and illustrated by Elisa Paganelli, won the Books for Younger Readers Category, When The World Was Ours, written by Liz Kessler, won the Books for Older Reader’s category winner. Find out more in this article for Books For Keeps.

Fight Back: Teaching Resources – The book Fight Back by A M Dassu is a story to encourage empathy, challenging stereotypes, exploring prejudice, racism, Islamophobia and positive action. Scholastic have produced a KS3 teaching resource pack that is free to download from their website. Ideal for learning at home or in the classroom.

Summer reading: the 50 hottest new books for a great escape – From pageturning thrillers and comic novels to an antidote to doomscrolling make up this pick of the best new fiction and nonfiction in the Guardian. The selection also includes 10 brilliant paperbacks, and 10 great reads for children and teens.

Books for Topics Summer 2022 Recommended Reads – last week I shared the Books for Topics Summer Reading Bingo which is a great way to encourage reading for pleasure over the holidays. These recommended reads linked above will be helpful if parents or children are asking for suggestions of specific titles. They are divided into age categories.

Why Access to the Outdoors Matters by Yarrow Townsend – a guest post on the Federation of Children’s Book Groups’ website by the author of The Map of Leaves, a book I recently reviewed for Just Imagine. This thoughtful piece explores the link between nature, stories and imagination and the importance of all three to children.

World Kid Lit Monthly Round Up for June 2022 – this is a helpful and comprehensive look at what has been happening in the world of translated books for children and also stories set in other countries. The article includes a link to the list of 2022 Children’s & YA Books in Translation.

School Library Association Response to North Lanackshire Council decision – CEO of SLA, Alison Tarrant responds to North Lanackshire’s decision to cut all 23 secondary school librarian posts across the region. The article also includes a link to a petition protesting against this plan.

New report – Public Libraries and Literacy Recovery – this week the National Literacy Trust and Libraries Connected released a new report that examines the role of libraries in raising the literacy skills of children whose learning has been disrupted by the pandemic. The article provides a brief overview, a link to the full report and links to resources for libraries.

The Reader Teacher June 2022 Monthly Must Reads – Scott Evans selection for this month includes the wonderful While the Storm Rages by Phil Earle and The Encyclopedia of STEM Words a brilliant non-fiction book for upper KS2 and KS3. There is a downloadable poster and links to Scott’s reviews.

UEFA Women’s EURO 2022 Literacy Trust Events and Resources – the Literacy Trust have partnered with the FA to create a suite of events and resources to help schools and pupils celebrate. Resources include a Reading Challenge and lots of activities and are suitable for Key Stage 2 and Key Stage 3. They include topics and themes such as PSHE, literacy, maths, PE, culture and heritage. On 6th July 2022 there is a live online launch event with authors Tom Palmer and Venessa Taylor aimed at Key Stage 2 pupils and including a quiz about women’s football, as well as featuring some famous faces.

Literacy Library Presents: Jump Up A Story of Carnival with Ken Wilson-Max – an online CLPE event taking place on Thursday 7th July from 5.00pm-6.30pm £15 celebrating the launch of Jump Up! A Story of Carnival, written and illustrated by award-winning author Ken Wilson-Max. Jump Up! is the second book in the GPI’s new series of black history picturebooks, Reaching New Generations, and tells the story of Cecille, a young black girl living in the Caribbean, and how her community develops their very own Carnival, based on their long-remembered African traditions. The event will be led by CLPE’s Primary Advisory Teacher Darren Matthews.

Summer Reading Challenge: Virtual Author Event with Anna James – children’s author (and former school librarian) Anna James is launching both Hetty and the Battle of the Books and the Summer Reading Challenge with a virtual event for schools hosted by Leeds Libraries on July 8th from 10-11am. Cost £11 per school includes a copy of Anna’s new book featuring libraries.

The Reader Teacher July 2022 Children’s Books I’m Most Excited About – thank you to Scott Evans for highlighting the new releases for this coming month. Among the selection is Autumn Moonbeam: Dance Magic, the first in an illustrated series for younger readers, the lovely The Dragon in the Bookshop mentioned above and The Cuckoo Summer a Second World War story which I’m reading and enjoying at the moment.

Authorfy: World War 2: emotional storyline and writing about animals with Phil Earle – an excellent range of resources, writing tips and videos available on this Authorfy Masterclass linked to When the Sky Falls and While the Storm Rages.

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

The Boy Who Rescued A Rainbow By Corrina Campbell – this new picture book is described as “a fantastic way to show empathy, sympathy and the wonder of memories” in a review by Sarah Broadley on My Book Corner. It sounds extremely appealing.

The Animal Lighthouse by Anthony Burt illustrated by Ciara Flood – island adventures have been a staple of children’s literature for many years and this Book of the Week on the Books for Keeps website sounds like a perfect summer holiday read.

Birdsong by Katya Balen – this is an absolutely beautiful review by Gordon Askew of a book that was already on my wish list. I am sure that others will be tempted by this. “Katya Balen turns perfection into simplicity. And simplicity into perfection. She can grab your heart and wrench it with a nine word sentence.

Invisible Nature by Catherine Barr Illustrated by Anne Wilson – this new non-fiction title from Otter Barry helps children learn how animals use hidden senses and mysterious forces to survive and discover how we have learned to tap into their secret powers in our daily lives. In his review for Just Imagine Stephen Connor says, “Definitely a book to extend knowledge and to provide moments of awe and wonder each time it is read.”

That’s everything for this week and I hope that you have found something among the links included that is helpful, interesting or maybe even both! I am looking forward to the announcement of the new Children’s Laureate on Monday. The wonderful Cressida Cowell and all she has done over the last few years to promote the worth of school libraries is a tremendously hard act to follow but whoever it is will have a great deal of support from the children’s book world.

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Blog Tour: The Dragon in the Bookshop by Ewa Jozefkowicz

I am delighted to be kicking off the blog tour to mark publication of Ewa Jozefkowicz’s latest novel for children, The Dragon in the Bookshop. This moving story is inspired by the author’s own personal experience of childhood bereavement and told with a tender understanding. Ewa Josefkowicz weaves together a contemporary tale of grief and a traditional Polish legend in a book that will reassure and encourage young readers.

Cover illustration by Katy Riddell

Konrad’s Dad always used to say, “There is a character in a book somewhere that matches you almost entirely. It’s just a matter of finding them.” After his Dad dies suddenly Konrad stops talking completely and finds comfort in the things they shared together such as exploring the beach and reading favourite stories. Through these things Kon feels just a little closer to the father he misses so much, however still he remains silent. One day at the beach he meets Maya who is kind and friendly and does not mind his quietness. Together the two new friends visit the family bookshop Kon’s Dad loved so much before it is finally closed. Whilst reading a book together they are whisked back in time and find themselves quite literally ‘lost in a book’ and on a quest to defeat a dragon and save a town. This adventure will encourage Konrad and Maya to discover what is most important to them, find their voices and pursue a happy ending in both the book and real life.

Ewa Jozefkowicz’s writing style is thoughtful and compassionate bringing a poignancy to this combination of magical adventure and exploration of grief. The importance of stories, and in particular the sharing of stories, is threaded thought the plot and I find it touching how this both comforts and guides our two young characters. The folklore element is well done and the story within the story gives this an appeal to those who enjoy books containing time slips or portals to other worlds. Yet this does not feel like a fantasy to me rather more like a spiritually comforting read. As a reader you are left with the impression that those we have loved and lost are not really lost at all but with us through the things we have shared together and perhaps most particularly in the stories we enjoyed together.

The Dragon in the Bookshop contains excitement and bravery, grief and loss, friendship and family and two wonderful protagonists in Konrad and Maya. A winning mix of magic, adventure and thoughtfulness this is a story that will appeal to many and raise the profile of Grief Encounter, a charity close to the author’s heart.

Ewa has written a lovely inspirational piece about charity Grief Encounter and why she wanted to support their work and write The Dragon in the Bookshop which I am sharing below:

The Dragon in the Bookshop is a book about many things – a dragon, a dinosaur, a yellow-bellied lizard, a girl who speaks to it in Portuguese, and a peculiar old lady who lives in a cathedral turret and has mysterious holes in her sleeves. But it’s also a book about grief and the importance of having the right people around you to help find yourself again.

It’s been many years since I’d lost my dad while at secondary school. At the time, I was lucky enough to have an incredible group of supportive friends, and a couple of teachers who went out of their way to check in on me. But I didn’t know anyone who had gone through the same experience as me, nor anyone who I could regularly talk to outside of the school and family setting. I felt keenly that I needed more support, but I wasn’t even sure what to ask for.

At intervals throughout my adult life, I’ve found myself experiencing periods of grief which often took me by surprise. They didn’t seem to be triggered by anything in particular and they left me questioning why this was happening so many years after my dad’s death. It took me a long time to realise it was because I hadn’t dealt with it effectively at the time. 

I found out about the brilliant work of Grief Encounter when I was already in my mid-twenties. For me, it was immediately obvious that their work forms that crucial, missing piece of support. It provides counselling, a Grieftalk helpline, workshops, retreats, and family days. And what’s perhaps most important – it connects people who have been through similar experiences. 

When I started to write The Dragon in the Bookshop, which is about a boy called Kon who loses his dad, I wanted to raise awareness for Grief Encounter through my book. Why? Because I want every reader to know about the charity’s existence – it just might be that invaluable source of support for them or someone they know.

Ewa Jozefkowicz

The Dragon in the Bookshop by Ewa Jozefkowicz (front cover illustration by Katy Riddell) is out on 7th July 2022 and will help promote Grief Encounter ( a wonderful charity that works with children who have lost someone they love. 

Grief Encounter have a message for children and young people like Kon. As a charity they work closely with individuals, families, schools and professionals to offer a way through the anxiety, fear and isolation so often caused by the grief of losing someone close.

Grief Encounter provide immediate support with a FREEPHONE Grieftalk helpline 0808 802 0111 open Mon-Fri 9am-9pm, a live chat via their website or support by emailing

I should like to thank Ewa Jozefkowicz, Fritha Lindqvist and Zephyr Books for their help in preparing this blog post. Do please follow the rest of the tour to find out more about this kind and thoughtful story.



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Reading Matters – children’s book news

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

What I’m reading…

This coming Friday I will be kicking off the blog tour arranged to coincide with the publication of The Dragon in the Bookshop by Ewa Jozefkowicz. Ewa always writes with sensitivity, creating thoughtful yet exciting adventures and often encompassing big themes in her books. The Dragon in the Bookshop whilst being an exciting story is also an exploration of grief and coping with loss wrapped up in Polish folklore and the importance of sharing stories. I think it’s a wise book for children and you can find out more about the inspiration for the story in Ewa’s guest piece on the blog next Friday.

My latest batch of books to review for the School Library Association’s quarterly journal, TSL, arrived this week and I was delighted to find Writes of Passage: Words to Read Before You Turn 13 Selected by Nicolette Jones among the selection. Oh I wish this had been available when I was coming up to 13! However it is just as enjoyable, thoughtful and wise for an adult reader. As I started reading I was going to make a note of those pieces of writing that resonated particularly with me. I soon gave up as they all did. This is a beautiful book, valuable for school libraries and perfect as a gift. Over the last few days I have kept returning to this compilation and Nicolette’s insightful and thoughtful commentary accompanying each piece and know I’m not going to be able to part with this book.

News, articles and resources…

Reading for Pleasure Padlet – Jon Biddle has generously added an article about his Reading Champions initiative plus a sample application form to his Padlet. This is a resource worth investigating if you have not already seen it.

Around the World in Eighty* Ways – I’m enjoying Roy James’ guest blogs on the Just Imagine website immensely and this one has introduced me to some titles of which I was unaware. Roy discusses the place of atlases and maps in education but also the pleasure that many derive from these sources of information too. I’ve bookmarked this to refer back to as I want to read so many of the books mentioned.

The Portable Magic Dispenser Episode 9 Collaboration and Co-Creation – former School Librarian of the Year, Lucas Maxwell, spoke at the recent School Library Association Conference on the subject of school librarians and collaboration. Lucas has generously shared the key points from his presentation on his podcast and this is definitely worth a listen as Lucas, as ever makes, some valuable and helpful points. Suitable for both school librarians and teachers.

PaperBound Magazine Summer Discovery Issue 2022 – PaperBound Magazine is an online magazine for the young, and the young at heart. They are dedicated to showcasing authors and illustrators for children’s and young adult fiction and strive to deliver inspiring content, uplifting stories, and top tips for young and aspiring writers yet to burst on to the literary scene. The special summer issue includes interviews with Anne Cassidy, Katie Clapham and Natasha Devon, reviews of new books, plus new writing and illustration.

Books For Topics Summer Reading Bingo – A reading bingo challenge to keep children motivated to read over the summer holidays. The focus is on reading for pleasure experiences rather than specific texts, with activities like make a den and read inside, read in the dark using a torch and read to a pet or a soft toy. Children can choose what they read for the challenges, although Alison Leach at Books for Topics has included some Summer 2022 recommended reads for those looking for new ideas.

Malorie Blackman’s ‘dynamic imaginary worlds’ win her the PEN Pinter prize – Noughts & Crosses author Malorie Blackman has become the first children’s and YA writer to be awarded the PEN Pinter prize. The prize is given by English PEN annually to a writer of “outstanding literary merit” who is based in the UK, Ireland or the Commonwealth.

Reading is Magic Festival – the Reading is Magic Festival is back from 26th – 30th September with a five-day online programme packed full of magical events from bestselling authors & illustrators from around the globe. The full programme is available via the link above and includes Gareth P. Jones, Cressida Cowell, Joseph Coelho, Sophie Anderson plus a special Read for Empathy event. Well worth a browse!

Bath Children’s Literature Festival – Europe’s largest dedicated children’s literature festival with a vibrant array of talks and activities for children will return Friday 23rd September – Sunday 2nd October 2022. You can browse the packed programme of events via the link above and booking for the general public opens in 1st July.

BookTrust unveils exciting new interactive books being included in Bookstart Baby bags – Bookstart Baby is designed to encourage families to start reading with their children as early as possible, and every baby born in England, Wales and Northern Ireland is entitled to a pack. Each bag includes two books, finger puppets and an information sheet that explains the benefits of sharing stories and rhymes with babies. Find out which books are included in the article linked above.

James Cropper Wainwright Prize Longlists Announced – 23rd June saw the announcement of the longlists for each of the three categories in the 2022 JAMES CROPPER WAINWRIGHT PRIZE, including the all-new children’s prize. This is welcome news and the long list includes some gems, in both fiction and non-fiction. Award-winning teenage naturalist, Dara McAnulty, the winner of the 2020 Nature Writing Prize, is longlisted for the Children’s Prize for his multi-sensory guide to exploring the nature on your doorstep while Katya Balen is nominated for her 2022 Yoto Carnegie Award winner, October, October. The full long list plus more information about the awards can be found on the official website linked above.

Tony Mitton: Books For Keeps Authorgraph – I was sad to learn of the death of poet Tony Mitton last weekend. He was one of the first creators of children’s literature I booked to visit when I became a school librarian. A kind and gentle man whose work was enjoyed by a wide age range and I have fond memories of the happy day he spent with the children. Nikki Gamble’s interview with Tony from 2014 linked above sheds light on his approach to poetry. If you would like to discover more of his work you many like to visit the Children’s Poetry Archive.

Shortlist for 2022 SLA Information Book Award (IBA) Announced – Now in its twelfth year, the IBA aims to emphasise the importance of non-fiction by highlighting and celebrating the high standard of children’s information books. 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. This year’s shortlist is made up of 10 titles, drawing on themes of science, art and diversity.

2022 YA Book Prize Shortlist Announced – there are 10 titles on the shortlist for the YA Book Prize 2022, run by The Bookseller in a strong year for debut talent, with the winner to be announced at the Edinburgh International Book Festival.

Little Wandle Letters and Sounds Revised: Extraordinarily Ordinary – teacher Dean Boddington has written a blog for Everybody Read sharing his own experience and recommending five superb books for all primary ages to enable children with disabilities to see themselves. As Dean says, “We need to be seeing more disabled characters that are having adventures, living normal lives, defeating monsters, and saving the world alongside their disability, not because of it.”

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

Martha Maps It Out by Leigh Hodgkinson – the Books for Keeps Book of the Week is a picture book to pair perfectly with the Around The World blogpost by Roy James linked above. “Every page is a treat with so much for young readers to explore and it’s delightfully positive, celebrating all the opportunities Martha has for adventure and discovery.”

Hetty and the Battle of the Books by Anna James illustrated by Jez Tuya – although I’m not the target audience for this Barrington Stoke title due out next month this sounds like the perfect book for me. Veronica Price in her enthusiastic review describes the story as, “a funny, thoughtful, powerful manifesto for the necessity of having a library and a trained librarian in every school, published in fully accessible format so that it can be read and enjoyed by the very individuals to whom a library often matters the most.” Irresistible!

Alex Neptune: Dragon Thief by David Owen – when teacher Tom Griffiths shared this review it was his comment ‘an ending to rival Free Willy!’ that prompted me to read further. I really like the sound of this adventure and have a feeling it may be a popular summer holiday read.

The Battle of Cable Street by Tanya Landman Illustrated by Sara Mulvanny – a book of the month selection on LoveReading4Kids this Barrington Stoke title is a “Vivid telling of a slice of our history many would prefer to forget” With content suitable for teens and a reading age of 8+ this book should be popular in secondary school libraries.

That’s everything for this week and I hope that among all the links included there is something that appeals to you. Happy reading.

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Reading Matters – children’s book news

Welcome to this week’s look at was has been happening in the world of children’s books. The highlight of this week has been the announcement of the winners of the Yoto Carnegie and Greenaway Medals and you can read more about that in the links below. On Tuesday we held our Surrey Branch of the School Library Association Summer Term Meeting at Heaths Educational Books. It’s great to be meeting up in person once more and Heaths are welcoming hosts. Our focus was the role and future of non-fiction in the school library and prompted loads of discussion. This is a subject of importance to both librarians and publishers and one that requires collaboration in the future.

What I’m reading…

Last weekend I finished reading Noah’s Gold by Frank Cottrell Boyce. What a delight this story is and it did lift my spirits. One aspect of the story I particularly like is the resilience shown by the children as this is both encouraging and inspiring for young readers. This emphasis on what children are capable of is particularly important, I think, after their experiences during the COVID pandemic. Definitely recommended! You may like to read Veronica Price’s excellent review which I think captures the spirit of the book perfectly .

Phil Earle is receiving a great deal of attention at the moment, deservedly so, for his award winning When the Sky Falls and his latest book While the Storm Rages. However don’t let his new ‘Little Gem’ for Barrington Stoke slip through the net! SuperNan’s Day Out is entertaining, great fun and perfect for younger children just starting to read fiction independently. The humorous illustrations by Steve May and the dyslexia friendly format make this an appealing package to many.

Autumn Moonbeam: Dance Magic is the first in a new series by Emma Finlayson Palmer and is fully illustrated by Heidi Cannon. A story full of magic, family, friendship and dreams and containing positive representation of disability too. This will be published on 7th July by UClan Publishing and is lovely for age 7+.

News, articles and resources…

YOTO Carnegie and Greenaway Winners Announced – The winners of the UK’s longest running book awards for children and young people, the Yoto Carnegie Greenaway Awards were announced on Thursday in a ceremony at The British Library. The Yoto Carnegie Medal was awarded to Katya Balen for her second novel October, October (Bloomsbury), illustrated by Angela Harding and Danica Novgorodoff’s illustrated edition of Jason Reynold’s 2019 Carnegie-shortlisted book, Long Way Down (Faber) won the Yoto Kate Greenaway Medal – the first graphic novel to win since Raymond Briggs’ Father Christmas in 1973. Many congratulations to the winners.

Saved By Stories: Joy Court Interviews 2022 Carnegie Medal Winner Katya Balen for Books for Keeps – this insight into the background to this year’s winner of both the Carnegie Medal and the Shadowers’ Choice is an interesting read.

Nikki Gamble’s Book Blast for June 2022 – Book Blast is a monthly round-up of some of the best children’s books published this month. For teachers, student teachers, librarians and anyone interested in children’s books and reading. It is excellent and extremely helpful so if you missed Nikki’s latest round up it is available to watch on YouTube via the link above.

The Teachers’ Collection: Stories to Support the Curriculum – Mary Myatt shared this new initiative last weekend. Selected high quality texts with ideas as to how they link to a programme of study with draft outline plans included. The collection will be gradually added to and this will no doubt be worth following.

The Reading Agency and Open University Teachers’ Reading Challenge – The Teachers’ Reading Challenge is an opportunity for school and library staff to expand their knowledge of contemporary children’s books and develop their understanding of reading for pleasure pedagogy. The 2022 Teachers’ Reading Challenge runs from 27 June to 29 October and full details of how to get involved can be found via the link above.

Badger Learning Free Reading Resources for Ukrainian Pupils – Badger Learning have translated and published a range of six dual language English–Ukrainian eBook PDFs for schools and families. They have consulted with authors and commissioned professional translators to work on these books and are able to offer them to schools and families to download free of charge. These are suitable for children in KS2 and KS3 (ages 8–14) and are ideal learning resources to support children in building fluency in reading in English. Full details of how to register for these are available on the link above.

Teachers Make Readers (and writers) by Danielle Davis – this guest post on The Nerdy Book Club by Danielle Davis highlights the huge long term impact. a teacher may have on a child. The article focuses on the importance of reading aloud in the classroom and the opening up of the world of language. It’s a beautiful read and worth setting five minutes aside to savour.

Picked With Pride – educator Matthew Courtney shares a rainbow of book recommendations for all ages suitable for Pride Month on the Letters and Sounds Everybody Read campaign on the Letters and Sounds website.

How Bookbuzz encouraged independent reading in my school – Charlie Hield, English teacher at Sidestrand Hall School, talks about how Bookbuzz has encouraged independent reading for his Year 7 and 8 students. You can find out more about Bookbuzz and sign up via the link too.

The Reading Agency’s June Booklist for Children & Young People – Around the World/Refugee Week – helpful lists compiled by The Reading Agency, one celebrating books set in different countries and those by authors and illustrators from around the world. Be transported to Mumbai, Paris, Nigeria and many other locations across the globe and discover Samurai and the Northern Lights. The second booklist focuses specifically on books written by and about refugees or former refugees to mark Refugee Week, which takes place from 20-26 June 2022. Here you will find picture books, middle grade books and YA titles that explore the struggles, achievements, bravery, resilience and strength of refugees around the world.

Refugee Week 2022 event: in conversation with Tom Palmer – a reminder of this National Literacy Trust event for teachers and pupils on Monday 20 June from 10.30 to 11.00. They will discuss with Tom how to approach writing sensitively and appropriately about the experiences of refugees, and how we can offer support to them. Tom’s historical fiction has powerfully addressed the impact of war and experiences of displacement, notably in his acclaimed title After the War, and his new book, Resist.

Summer Reading Challenge x StoryTrails – StoryTrails is a unique, immersive storytelling experience. It aims to allow local people to experience their town in a completely new way through immersive technology, including augmented and virtual reality. People will be able to use this new technology to travel back in time, experiencing untold histories from their local community. This pack brings together StoryTrails and the Summer Reading Challenge, providing activities to help children and young people explore the themes of innovation, technology and immersive storytelling. Full details free to download via the link.

Lupus Films Adapts ‘Storm Whale’ Books to Animated Trilogy – Benji Davies’ “Storm Whale” children’s books are getting an animated adaptation from Lupus Films, the studio behind the adaptation of Judith Kerr’s “The Tiger Who Came to Tea.” The lovely teaser trailer video is worth a watch.

Children’s and teens roundup – the best new picture books and novels – Imogen Russell Williams’ June selection includes While The Storm Rages by Phil Earle and Fight Back by A M Dassu plus non-fiction and picture books ideal for the summer holidays.

Read for Refugees Sunflower Challenge – Read for Refugees Sunflower Challenge is the School Library Association’s sponsored read initiative in support of Ukrainian refugees and has now been extended until 1st September. This makes it perfect for a summer reading idea for schools and there is an introductory video, FAQ, registration details etc. available via the link above.

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

Slug Love by Cath Jones, illustrated by Craig Shuttlewood – at the moment slugs don’t feature high on my love list thanks to what they’ve done to my baby courgette plants however this new picture book may yet convert me. Author Cath Jones shares her love of gardening and the inspiration for Slug Love on Emma Kuyateh’s blog.

Rex: Dinosaur in Disguise by Elys Dolan – a brand new highly-illustrated chapter book from the creator of Weasels, a picture book I love, definitely tempted me this week. As part of this week’s blog tour Jo Cummins has reviewed this and provided a glimpse of one of the pages too. This looks absolutely perfect for newly confident readers.

When I See Blue By Lily Bailey – this debut middle grade novel reviewed on My Book Corner tackles the subject of OCD and is “the perfect example of how reading has the power to promote empathy and understanding.” A book I will now be on the look out for and one worth bearing in mind for school libraries.

Three Girls by Katie Clapham – published earlier this month this sounds great for lovers of Holly Smale and Louise Rennison and this enthusiastic review by Kate Hitchings for Just Imagine has tempted me too. Kate says, “This is a book that could help teenagers confront some serious issues. In school, it could help with the pastoral support of pupils facing friendship issues, struggling with decisions or feeling trapped in circumstances.”

That’s everything for this week and I hope you have found it helpful. This weekend I am hoping to finish reading The Dragon in the Bookshop by Ewa Jozefkowicz in readiness for the blog tour taking place to mark its publication on 7th July. I hope you find time for some reading too. If any of the books mentioned this week have tempted you don’t forget Independent Bookshop Week starts today!

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Reading Matters – children’s book news

Welcome to the latest round up of what has been happening in the world of children’s books recently. The highlight of this week has been Empathy Day with it trending on Twitter and many sharing thoughts, activities, suggested books and their Empathy resolutions. I’ve included a link to the official website below so you can catch up with what you may have missed.

A personal highlight for me this week was Nikki Gamble’s Audience with Frank Cottrell-Boyce who has long been one of my favourite children’s authors. He is just as funny, entertaining and kind as you would imagine from his stories.

What I’m reading…

Well I finally managed to read While the Storm Rages by Phil Earle and it is just as special as I hoped it would be. It is wise and kind, utterly believable, both hilariously funny and heartbreakingly sad in the turn of a page. There are children and animals you grow to love, friendships made and tested, courage found and lessons learned, this is a wonderful book and a perfect follow up to the award winning When the Sky Falls.

This week in preparation for the Frank Cottrell-Boyce event mentioned above I have been reading Frank’s latest book, Noah’s Gold and it is an absolute joy. It’s been a welcome distraction for me this week and has actually made me ‘laugh out loud’ in many places during the story. A wry look at our dependence on and use of technology and full of kindly wisdom about family relationships and friendship. And food! I have nearly finished it and think it’s a real mood lifter of a book.

Last week I took part in the The Boy Who Grew A Tree blog tour timed to coincide with National Children’s Gardening Week. This is such a lovely book, I enjoyed it very much and think its kind, inclusive and thoughtful fable like quality makes it a great read aloud for KS1/Lower KS2.

Although I had seen others mention the popular series by Jen Carney, The Accidental Diary of B.U.G., I knew little about it other than its appeal to fans of Tom Gates. Over the long bank holiday weekend I decided to put that right and read the third in the series, Sister Act. From the first page I understood why these books are popular. The first person narrative by the ever optimistic Billie is appealing and full of humour and the illustrations include witty detail too. However what I did not anticipate was the kind and inclusive nature of the story which promotes tolerance and understanding in a gentle way. A brilliant book to highlight during Pride Month. The portrayal of Billie’s family, her two mums and the theme of adoption are all included in a natural and realistic manner. I’m converted and must read the first two books soon.

I have recently discovered the new publiser, Neon Squid, who are creating stylish non-fiction to engage curious children in a variety of topics. You may like to read my reviews of two of their titles published in April, The Book of Sisters and The Hospital. Roy James’ recent blogpost for Just Imagine, linked below, prompted me to review some recent books from small publishers, both fiction and nonfiction and suitable for a wide age range.

News, articles and resources…

Life-changing Libraries – first up on this week’s links as it’s a subject I feel strongly about. This week saw the release of a report on the impact of our Children’s Laureate, Cressida Cowell’s, Life Changing Libraries initiative. As Cressida ends her term as Laureate we owe her a debt of thanks for all she has done to highlight the importance of primary school libraries. The report, the accompanying video and the Book Trust round up, all available via the link above, are important and I hope they are shared widely.

Cressida Cowell renews call for £100m investment in primary school libraries – article in the Guardian reporting on the Life Changing Libraries impact report and quotes from Cressida Cowell.

Empathy Day 2022 – Thursday 9th June saw schools and libraries across the country mark Empathy Day in a variety of ways. The excellent website includes activities, book lists, resources and videos which enable us to turn every day in to an empathy day.

Book Trust: Books We Love for June – every month the Book Trust team select their favourite books in different age categories. This month’s books include While the Storm Rages, All to Play For and Eye Spy, all of which I would recommend too. I’ve added Smile Out Loud and One Time to my wish list.

The Reader Teacher: Books I’m Most Excited About for June – Scott Evans has put together his ‘coming soon’ selection for this month and this includes non-fiction and picture books alongside novels. I was pleased to see The Encyclopedia of STEM Words from b small publishing featured as I think this would be excellent for school libraries.

Children’s and teens roundup: the best new chapter books – Marcus Rashford channels Scooby-Doo, more girls solve mysteries, while two historical young Black Britons join forces in theatreland in books chosen by Kitty Empire.

Vote in the InspiREAD 2022 book awards – Nottinghamshire Education Library Service librarians have shortlisted some of their favourite books for the second InspiREAD awards. There will be a winner in each of the three categories: Picture Books, Shorter Books and Longer Novels. You can see the shortlisted books and find out more via the link above.

Being a good ally with A.M. Dassu, author of FIGHT BACK – Wednesday 15th June, 11am, hosted by Scholastic. Join award-winning author A.M. Dassu for a workshop exploring identity, freedom of expression and allyship. In this session you will be introduced to Dassu’s new upper middle grade novel, Fight Back, and examine its themes. This event is recommended for ages 10 and above.

Scottish Book Trust: Graphic Novels for Children – Looking for children’s graphic novel recommendations? Look no further! This list compiled by Marianne Doherty for Scottish Book Trust contains some of her favourite graphic novel and comic book reads, ideal for readers looking for new and exciting titles.

Small Publishers are a Big Deal – another great blog for Just Imagine by Roy Moss, this time highlighting the important contribution smaller publishers make to the world of children’s books. Some of my own favourite publishers feature in this article and there are links to tempting book collections to explore.

WIN £1,000/€1,000 to help your school rebuild their library – National Book Tokens are giving five schools £1,000/€1,000 of National Book Tokens each, plus membership to the School Library Association. Nominate your school via the link above , and if yours is one of the five winning entries, you’ll also win a £100/€120 National Book Token for yourself! Closing date 29th July.

Refugee Week 2022 event: in conversation with Tom Palmer – the National Literacy Trust invites teachers and pupils to join them on Monday 20 June from 10.30 to 11.00 as they discuss with Tom how to approach writing sensitively and appropriately about the experiences of refugees, and how we can offer support to them. Tom’s historical fiction has powerfully addressed the impact of war and experiences of displacement, notably in his acclaimed title After the War, and his new book, Resist.

Using illustration to develop reading and writing: free online CPD – the British Library are hosting this free virtual event on Wednesday 22nd June from 4 -5pm for primary teachers. Featuring Charlotte Hacking, Learning and Programmes Director at the Centre for Literacy in Primary Education, Yu Rong, illustrator and Viviane Schwarz, writer and illustrator, it will be full of ideas to inspire young authors and illustrators.

Stream the 2022 Yoto Carnegie Greenaway Awards Ceremony – the 2022 Yoto Carnegie Greenaway Medals and Shadowers’ Choice Awards Ceremony will be available to stream online on Thursday 16 June at 12pm. Hosted by poet and author, Dean Atta, live from the British Library, Dean will be joined by this year’s Chair of Judges, Jen Horan with special speeches and Q&A’s with the Medal winners.

Five games for children to play in their school library – Library consultant Sarah Pavey shares five simple games that primary school children can play in their library that encourage reading – even for those less interested in books. Sarah has written a book on this subject and runs training courses through the School Library Association which you may be interested in too. Her website has more details.

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

Keeping the Words Safe: The Keeper of Wild Words by Brooke Smith – this picture book highlighting both the relationship between a child and a grandparent and the importance of nature described by Mary Esther Judy as, “A gorgeous book to ignite curiosity and hope; encouraging, happy, tender, warm and wonderful” sounds delightful.

The Secret Life of Birds by Moira Butterfield and Vivian Mineker – like many others I enjoy watching from my kitchen window as a variety of birds visit our bird feeders. Having read Sue Magee’s review of this new book I think, although chiefly suitable for the 7-11 audience, I may learn something from reading it too. “It’s a fun book to read and best of all, you don’t feel as though you’ve been educated when you turn the final page. It’s a book which could set a child up with an interest which could stay with them throughout their life.”

Zo and the Forest of Secrets by Alake Pilgrim – another great book from Knights Of and another great review by Reading Teacher, Ben Harris. Described by Ben as a ‘magic-realist novel’ this review has tempted me and Ben’s suggested points for discussion are both thoughtful and interesting. This is a really helpful review for teachers for use in the classroom and for school librarian for book club conversations.

When Shadows Fall by Sita Brahmachari – it’s always good when someone you know personally recommends a book to you so I’m sharing Helen Morgan’s review for Just Imagine of this new YA title. Helen describes this story as “one of the most powerful and moving books that I have read for a long time” and recommends it for Yr9+. I have earmarked it for part of my summer reading.

That’s everything for this week and it has turned into a bit of a bumper issue! Next week we have the Carnegie and Kate Greenaway Award announcements to look forward to. I confess to a favourite for the Carnegie so will have my fingers crossed. On Tuesday our Surrey Branch of the School Library Association is holding our summer meeting at Heath Books on the subject of non-fiction in the school library so I will let you know how that goes next week. Happy reading!

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New Children’s Books – small publishers making a big difference

Recently I read an article on the Just Imagine website with which I found myself nodding in agreement. Roy James is a school librarian and writes regular blogs for this website specialising in excellence in teaching reading and writing, each of them highlighting a particular aspect of children’s literature. This recent article was Small Publishers are a Big Deal and focused on the role of smaller publishers in providing books with an individual flavour or catering for a particular type of reader. Roy’s blog mentioned that sometimes these books may ‘fly under the radar.’ This has prompted me to share a few new books from this type of publisher that you may otherwise have missed.

One of the publishers mentioned was b small publishing, who are on a mission to empower all readers with critical literacy skills and produce an excellent range of non-fiction books. The Encyclopedia of STEM Words by Jenny Jacoby and Vicky Barker is a comprehensive look at 100 essential concepts that will fascinate scientifically minded young readers and is published this month. I think this is an excellent book. It includes a wide range of topics in alphabetical order, discussed in an engaging manner, with definitions provided and ideas that will encourage children to learn more. The layout and presentation is clear with an index and contents page and the How to Use this Book section is extremely helpful. I would highly recommend The Encyclopedia of STEM Words for school libraries and think it is suitable for both upper KS2 and KS3.

Tiny Owl Publishers also received a mention in the Just Imagine blog and I have long been a fan of this independent but impressive publisher of picture books. This month sees the publication of The Name Game by acclaimed author Elizabeth Laird illustrated by Olivia Holden. This is gentle tale focusing on the importance of nature and the power of the imagination. A little girl sitting bored at home watches the activity of the natural world outside her window. This sparks an idea. She then gives each visitor a special name to match them perfectly using her imagination. This charming story introduces young children to a butterfly, a magpie and an oak tree and encourages them to notice and name the natural world around them. The delicate illustrations pair with the text perfectly in this picture book that would be suitable for very young children.

Although not mentioned in the Just Imagine blog Scallywag Press are another small publisher, now three years old, whose books are worth seeking out. They specialise in publishing talented newcomers and re-issues of established creators and classics. Eye Spy by Ruth Brown complements The Name Game perfectly and was published in May. This stunning book takes the reader on a journey through the day set in a countryside landscape. Each page offers the reader, or young listener, an opportunity to solve a riddle and guess which animal is hiding and then search for it in the accompanying illustration. Those familiar with Ruth Brown’s work will not be surprised to learn that this is a visually beautiful book. Each gorgeous page is worth lingering over and talking about particularly as some of the creatures are quite tricky to spot at first. The riddles provide a little snippet of information to help identify the animals and this is a delightful way for young children to learn about our native wild creatures such as snails, ladybirds, foxes and deer. Perfect for sharing with little ones and with a lovely traditional feel to it.

Each of these publishers provide helpful resources and activity ideas on their websites linked to the books they publish and I would recommend a browse to find out more. The Just Imagine website provides lists of books by smaller publishers too and you can find links to these in Roy’s article mentioned above. I hope this small taste has whetted your appetite to find our more about these publishers and to look out for their books in future.

I should like to thank the publishers for providing my review copies.

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New Non-fiction from Neon Squid

Neon Squid are a brand new non-fiction publisher for children. As a primary school librarian I have experienced the growth in the range of information books available in recent years and was keen to see what Neon Squid would offer. Their books are on carefully selected topics chosen to introduce children to areas they may not be overly familiar with and to spark an interest that will encourage them to find out more. I have selected a couple to share with you.

The Book of Sisters: Biographies of Incredible Siblings Through History by Olivia Meikle and Kate Nelson

Cover illustration by Sophy Smith

A World History Through Sisters” is a novel approach to exploring our history but it works well in this attractive and engaging book written, appropriately, by two sisters.

The authors travel through time using the stories of sisters to tell young readers about life, world events and people from sisters in Ancient Greek myths and Queen Cleopatra in Ancient Egypt to modern day sporting superstars and mountaineers. There are those such as Queen Elizabeth I and Mary Tudor with whom children may be familiar and others such as the warrior sisters Trung Trac and Trung Nhi beloved symbols of Vietnam from two thousand years ago who will probably be new to them.

Events including the Salem Witch Trials and the Suffragette movement, subjects like the slave trade and refugees, the Cold War and the Russian Revolution are all covered in this comprehensive book and presented in an accessible and engaging style. Sisters from the Mughal Empire, the Tang Dynasty, Native Americans and the Islamic Word of the Middle ensure the information is global in nature. Different illustrators for each period and story provide an added dimension and the overall look is attractive and would encourage browsing for pleasure alongside more formal research and learning.

The structure is well thought out beginning with a double page contents section followed by a welcoming introduction. The typeface is clear, the layout uncluttered and clear with a balance between narrative, key facts, quotes and maps. The final word from the authors highlights the role of women and in particular sisters in our world and there is also a helpful glossary and index.

The Hospital: The Inside Story by Dr. Christle Nwora and Ginnie Hsu

Set over the course of a day at a busy hospital this book offers the curious child an opportunity to meet all the people who work within the hospital to help keep everyone healthy. From medical staff such as nurses and surgeons to those who keep the building running and support the medics such as workers in the cafe and cleaners.

Written by a doctor this comprehensive book would reassure an anxious child preparing for a visit or stay in hospital or maybe having a close relative admitted but would also answer questions about what the many different roles involve. Starting with admission via reception readers the narrative follows a variety of patients in hospital for a range of reasons including the birth of a baby to a young man visiting the physiotherapist following an operation. The explanations of medical procedures and symptoms removes the fear of the unknown and the tone is a good balance of informative and comforting. Dr Nwora also explains the science behind how things work from X-Rays to operating theatres.

The illustrations by Ginnie Hsu are clear and labels and definitions are included were necessary. The emphasis in both text and pictures is on the human kindness evident in hospital, the teamwork and helpfulness needed to make things work. The overall tone is well considered by the creators of the book. There is a glossary of medical terms such as psychiatrist, stethoscope and fracture plus an index.

Both of these titles were published by Neon Squid in April 2022 and more information can be found on the publishers’ website.

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