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The books in this section cover a range of PSHE topics including bullying, disability, family issues and racism. There are both fiction and non-fiction titles and cover age ranges from Toddler to Older Teen.
Patrick Neate’s Small Town Hero melds a sensitive handling of real-life loss with alternate world weirdness to create a surprising, unique novel. There’s grief and gaming, family secrets and football, and the interwoven themes of loss and science will appeal to readers who liked Christopher Edge’s The Many Worlds of Albie Bright and are now a little older. Everything changed for thirteen-year-old Gabe when his dad died in a car accident. First there’s his grief, which has created a “black hole inside me.” Then there’s his unsettling new ability: “the stories I imagine become real.” Reeling with grief and confusion, Gabe finds he’s not entirely alone when he spends more time with his estranged Uncle Jesse, writer of an online game called Small Town Hero, which - to make matters even weirder – appears to echo Gabe’s life. Jesse believes “there aren’t just a few realities, but a countless number” and explains that when Gabe shifts realities and sees alternate versions of his present and future life, he’s crossing something called an “event horizon”. As Gabe’s reality-shifting plays out, he also falls out with his best friend. Still, he has Soccer School to look forward to, and here Gabe takes on pertinent football wisdom from one his Watford icons: “Football’s a game of moments. You get the ball, you choose a pass and, whether you chose right or wrong and did it well or badly, the moment’s gone and you gotta move on…the game makes you live in the here and now – you can’t change what’s gone and you can’t see what’s coming.” For similar books you can find an exciting and varied selection in our new Gritty Reads section
This compelling read tells a familiar story of the authority figure ( a popular teacher here) who behaves inappropriately and when his victim comes forward, she is not believed and her life takes a real turn for the worse, including in this case, work being marked down and university applications scuppered by the same teacher in revenge for her speaking out. What makes this book stand out is the complexity and authenticity of Marin’s internal dialogue and the fact that the dilemmas she faces and the choices she makes are all too believable. The book really gets to the heart of how difficult it is for girls and women to make sense of this kind of violation, and brilliantly explores the way they doubt themselves and the way that predators exploit these feelings. Marin’s experience opens her eyes to things that had previously passed unnoticed- the casual sexism of classmates and the institutional sexism of a school dress code and of an English curriculum which featured only male authors and even her own lack of awareness of what life is like for outsiders. While English teachers will celebrate Marin’s decision to express her protest in print via her student newspaper editorials, librarian’s will relish the feminist book club she also sets up ( and the excellent book recommendations that are given) This is an important book for both sexes to read and one which will hopefully start lots of conversations about equality, sexual harassment, and those unwritten social norms that govern our behaviour.
April 2020 Book of the Month | Twelve-year-old Ross is dealt a devastating blow when he’s told he has an extremely rare form of eye cancer and is likely to lose sight in both eyes. Based on author Rob Harrell’s personal experience of eye cancer, and spiced with his cool comic-strips of Ross’s Battbutt and Batpig characters, Wink has all the freshness and pitch-perfect narrative voice of a Louis Sachar story, with its own unique warmth and wit.As Ross struggles with the strangeness of undergoing immediate radiation treatment, he also faces a terrible time at school. Cruelly called the “Cancer Cowboy” on account of having to wear a hat, he’s also the subject of malicious memes. While Ross’s personal plight is at the huge heart of this novel, it’s equally as powerful in its portrayal of the wider impact of devastating diagnoses, most poignantly when Ross’s friend Isaac distances himself from their Oreo-sealed friendship pact. But as Isaac retreats, he makes life-changing new friends as a result of his treatment. First there’s fellow patient Jerry, a wise-cracking old guy who rebuffs Ross’s desire to be normal. According to Jerry, “Different moves the needle. Different is where the good stuff happens. There’s strength in difference.” Then there’s Frank, the adorable radiation tech guy who teaches Ross to play guitar, which has tear-jerkingly transformational effects.What an authentic, emotional, amusing and all-round awesome read this is.
March 2020 Debut of the Month | This debut novel was inspired by the author’s work creating Run the World, an organisation that empowers women and girls from marginalised backgrounds through sport and storytelling and the authenticity of this, at times harrowing story, is palpably evident. As is the skill of the accomplished writing which makes great use of typography and layout to really make every word count. This speeds the reader through the narrative, but it also cuts deep to reveal the emotions experienced by our narrator. Amber Rai is only ‘truly alive’ when running and shows great potential. But her alcoholic, abusive, misogynistic father refuses to allow her on the track. She has seen her older sister Ruby denied university and married off against her will and her downtrodden, abused mother is literally powerless to help, trapped as much by illiteracy and lack of English as the violence of her equally illiterate, unemployed husband. Amber has friends and teachers who believe in her, but she cannot explain what really goes on at home. She is a complex and believable character with very real flaws that she painfully recognises: ‘inflicting pain on others/halves your own hurt’. But the story is cleverly structured on The Anatomy of a Revolution and inspired by her reading about revolutions for history, Amber, Ruby and her mother gradually empower each other to take small steps to freedom. This is an important, rewarding, highly empathetic read which, despite the dark subject matter, offers hope but no simplistic solutions.
I think that this is a great inspirational story for kids. Verti-Goat has lots of messages about bullying fears and overcoming those hurdles. This little goat refuses to be just "ordinary". There are wonderful characters in this story and it is well written. I liked that there were lots of messages to provide inspiration for kids. Recommended and make sure this is in your child Christmas stocking this year. Jane Brown, A LoveReading4Kids Ambassador
September 2019 Debut of the Month | Jo is the kind of open, honest, amusing character readers immediately care about. Told through her wittily illustrated diary, Jo’s tale begins with a(nother) upheaval. She and her family have just moved to their new Chinese takeaway, but her hopes for a fresh start are immediately dashed when she sees there’s no living room, and she has to share a room with little sister Bonny while big brother Simon lives with their grandparents. Jo’s experience of feeling “doubly different” is poignantly portrayed – she’s an outsider at school because she’s Chinese, and an outsider among her wider Chinese family because her own family is dysfunctional, and because she doesn’t speak the same language. Thank goodness, then, that she forms a friendship with fellow outcast, Tina the Goth, who stands up to racist school bullies. But while Jo begins to feel hopeful about her future and takes steps towards realising her dream of working in fashion, she and Bonny are increasingly neglected by their parents, and then there’s Dad’s aggressive outbursts. The mid-1980s setting prompts many amusing references, from ra-ra skirts and Gary Kemp’s perm, to sending drawings to Take Hart and going to Wimpy for a Knickerbocker Glory - but above all this is a highly readable, highly empathetic, impactful novel about familial abuse and neglect, trying to fit in, and finding your way in the world. Based on her own experiences, author Sue Cheung’s big-hearted story will chime with readers of 12+ who know how it feels to fall between cracks and dream of a different life.
16-year-old Holly feels like an outsider, except when she’s swimming at her local pool: “Under the surface, deep in the blue-lit water, nobody can see me. There’s nobody to judge the clothes I wear, or the way my hair frizzles”. It’s at the pool she meets Ed, who’s “not like the boys at school who are either geeky or cocky and smart-arsed and think they’re all that. He’s different”. While romantic feelings, evoked in all their dizzying wonder, swell poolside, at home the seas are stormier. Struggling with depression, Holly’s mum has “become so inward-looking that she hasn’t a clue what I do with my time”. But as Holly’s home-life begins to brighten, Ed reveals that he’s grappling with a serious domestic situation of his own. Warm-hearted, highly readable and romantic, with the bleaker elements of both teenagers’ lives handled with a sensitive lightness of touch, readers will undoubtedly root for Holly and Ed to find their happy ever after.
It's hard to be the new girl but for Ella things are even more complicated. She has recently moved to a new area - and a new school - with her mum and brother, and a big secret. Ella has a talent for art, particularly photography, and joins the art club where she grows her friendship with Lydia, the school queen bee. But Lydia isn't all she seems and her motives behind her friendship with Ella are unpleasant. Soon Ella realises she is under Lydia's control but why? And what does Lydia hold against Molly? This is a pacy story of secrets and lies but it also carries a heartwarming message of friendship and finding the inner strength to be who you really want to be.
In a Nutshell: Time-travel, tyranny and tension This suspenseful sequel to Movers takes readers on an exhilarating time-travel trip as Patrick tries to return to his own time to save his family’s fate. In 2083, overcrowded and ailing planet Earth is home to two types of people, Movers and Non-Movers, and Movers like Pat possess the ability to bring their Shadow – a person from the future to whom they’re connected – to their own time. But Pat has been has been lurched forward 300 years into an unfamiliar future by Bo, his own Shadow. On finding himself in 2383, Pat is tormented by fears for his family: “anything could have happened to the people I love. It’s the not-knowing that’s driving me crazy”. Now he and Bo are occupying the same time “neither of us can move the other”, yet Pat must return to his family, and so they set off on a terrifying quest through a dangerous and dynamically-depicted dystopian world. While the concept is pretty complex, the writing is clear and thrillingly fast-paced, and this comes recommended for younger teen fans of sci-fi and dystopian fiction. ~ Joanne Owen
Interest Age 8-12 Reading Age 8+. How do see off the school bully? Sick of being picked on and called ‘chicken’ the narrator of this story thinks up a dare to show up Darren Bishop, the school bully. A farm boy himself he is quite at home with the big bully Olly and he dares Darren to come up close too. When Darren Bishop flees from the field his bullying days are over but there’s a twist in the tale…Is anyone really safe from the bully? A gripping story with a surprising ending. ~ Julia Eccleshare
Interest Age 8-12 Reading Age 8+. How do you see off the school bully? Sick of being picked on and called ‘chicken’ the narrator of this story thinks up a dare to show up Darren Bishop, the school bully. A farm boy himself he is quite at home with the big bully Olly and he dares Darren to come up close too. When Darren Bishop flees from the field his bullying days are over but there’s a twist in the tale…Is anyone really safe from the bully? A gripping story with a surprising ending. ~ Julia Eccleshare Particularly suitable for struggling, reluctant and dyslexic readers aged 7+
This collection features poems by three of our best-known and best-loved children’s poets, Liz Brownlee, Matt Goodfellow and Roger Stevens. Between them, using a range of poetic styles and voices, they cover lots of topics – friendship and togetherness, difference, tolerance, bullying. Some of the poems make their point through humour while others, particularly those about the refugee experience, are necessarily bleaker; some even contain direct advice about where to go or who to turn to in specific situations. All do what poetry does best, that is they will make readers think, engage and look at things, even situations or feelings that may be really familiar, with new eyes. An excellent collection that will be read and read again. ~ Andrea Reece