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The books in this section cover a range of PSHE topics including family issues, grief and books that can help children come to terms with the loss of a friend or family member. There are both fiction and non-fiction titles and cover age ranges from Toddler to Older Teen.
August 2021 Book of the Month | Life in a small Tennessee town is not easy. Cash lost his mother to an opioid addiction and his Papaw is dying slowly from emphysema. Dodging drug dealers and watching out for his smart but troubled best friend, Delaney, is second nature to Cash. But when Delaney manages to secure both of them full scholarships to an elite school in Connecticut, Cash will have to grapple with his need to protect and love Delaney, and his fears about abandoning his old life.
August 2021 Book of the Month | The first book in the series, The Five Clues, is a real-time murder-mystery thriller and family drama, combining an exciting race against time with a heart-rending story about a teenager learning to live with the loss of a beloved parent.
August 2021 Book of the Month | What a diamond of a thriller this is - a genuine page-turner that snakes with twists readers genuinely won’t see coming. Who to trust? Who to believe? Sophie McKenzie has struck gold with her latest page-turner. Fourteen-year-old Cat is having a hard time of it, to put it mildly. She’s lost her father, her little sister doesn’t speak, and her mum, a former TV astrology celebrity, is more interested in her work than anything Cat says or does. But after receiving a bolt-from-the-blue text alleging that her dad is alive, Cat throws herself into trying to tracking him down, with the help of a newfound friend, handsome Tyler, the first person she’s been able to open up to for an absolute age. A search for a dad becomes a search for a priceless diamond, which in turn becomes a search for the truth - and then a struggle to understand that truth. Driven by Cat’s endearingly determined, courageous personality, this read-in-one-sitting thriller has family and friendship bonds at its fast-beating heart. Find out more about Hide and Secrets as we chat with Sophie McKenzie, our Author of the Month.
When she was younger, Ellie used to love watching the hares leap and play on the common with her mum. But with every year that goes by since she lost her mum, it's getting harder for Ellie to remember her and those happy memories. Until one day on the way home from school, Ellie finds an injured hare on the path. The poor animal looks so scared, she has to do something to help. Nursing the hare back to health will be a big responsibility, but it might just be Ellie's chance to feel close to her mum again...
May 2021 Debut of the Month | There are two central characters in Roderick O Grady’s book, and we see the story through their eyes, the same incidents from their different perspectives. One of these is Minnie, who has recently lost her mother and is struggling to reset her relationship with Dan, her mother’s partner. The other is Kaayii, a young Sasquatch, or Yeti or Bigfoot as they’re often known. Kaayii and his family have been forced into close proximity with Minnie and her neighbours due to forest fires and he too is trying to find a new way to live. Their stories combine and Minnie is able to learn new ways of being from her (enormous) friend and protector while Kaayii finds peace too. The setting for the story is the wild forests and mountains of North America and they’re beautifully described, an exhilarating breath of fresh air for UK readers, and the relationship between Minnie and Kaayii is full of the compassion, shared understanding and awareness of nature that characterises the best of these kind of stories (think The Butterfly Lion or The Scarlet Ibis). A story full of heart and wonder.
Matthew Cordell’s new picture book is outstanding, an exploration of grief, loss and recovery, that will touch readers of all ages. A few wordless spreads show all that Charlie the dog meant to Louise, and how sad she is that he’s died. Rowing out to an island in the lake next to their home, Louise encounters a bear, and recognises in it a familiar sadness. After a rocky start, the two become friends and days become better, for both. As time passes, the pain of grief fades and the island changes too, illustrations moving imperceptibly from sepia into colour. When winter arrives, the bear hibernates and Louise is furious again at the unfairness that means things we love must end, before realising that sometimes the end is a beginning. The story could end there with the arrival of a new puppy, but there are a couple of pages of postscript. Louise rows back out to the island with her puppy, but now there’s no sign of the bear – did he ever exist at all? The story is beautifully told with not a word or image out of place, an adventure full of bravery and truth that every child should read.
From the agonising loneliness of grief, to the wonders of new friendships and a newfound father-son bond, Cath Howe’s How to be Me will stir readers to joy as it steers through Lucas’s profound sadness. His pitch-perfect narration is sublimely child-centred, with fine details that raise smiles and tug the heart. Tender and thoughtful, what a warm beam of a book this is, with the transformative, restorative power of music (and cats) threaded throughout. “Vanessa’s going to be your new mum, Lukie. You could at least look a bit excited about it.” Lucas’s dad’s words strike him to the core - his mum died three years ago, and Vanessa is nothing like her, while his wealthy banker dad is hardly ever around. Dad is a bluster of confidence, busyness, and quick fixes, which is why he sends Lucas to drama club - Dad thinks this will fix Lucas’s reluctance to speak up in public, but Lucas is horrified: “Why hadn’t Dad asked me? Why did he never ask me?” But that’s the thing about Dad - he always thinks he knows best, though he doesn’t know Lucas at all. Thankfully, the horrors of drama class shrink when Lucas befriends Keely and her beautiful, bighearted family. Keely is a delight - straight-talking, observant, funny, caring. Life also looks up also when his drama teacher realises he’s an incredible pianist. With an enthralling finale that builds in beautiful waves, and an inclusive, readable style, I adored every word of this treasure.
A Julia Eccleshare Pick of the Month February 2021 | A mysterious and deeply touching story woven through with serious themes, The Shark Caller is packed-full of adventure, old magic and, above all, friendship. Vividly set in Papua New Guinea with its landscape of sea, sun and beach it gives a glimpse into a way of life dominated by the natural environment. Blue Wing lives in a hut on a sandy beach. She has little formal learning but she knows the ways of the sea and, because she lives with the local shark caller, the ways of the sharks which swim off shore in particular. When a plane arrives with visitors, an American academic purporting to investigating coral in the region and his daughter Maple, Blue Wing’s life is turned upside down. Initially full of hostility towards each other, the two girls quickly discover that they are as alike inside as their lives are different outside. Forging a strong friendship they unravel the mystery of what Maple’s father is really looking for and, in doing so, help Blue Wing uncover her own mystery. A gripping and inspiring read.
A Julia Eccleshare Pick of the Month January 2021 | Children are experiencing sadness to a far greater degree than is usual but how can they best manage that and how can they describe it? Anne Booth’s gentle text explores how a little boy creates a shelter for his sadness giving it a place where it can take on the many different shapes and moods it may arrive in. Having a safe place where he can engage with the sadness helps the boy to deal with the wide range of moods it may release in him. It also helps him to prepare for a time when he and the sadness may no longer need a shelter but can step out together into a better world. Inspired by the words of Holocaust survivor Etty Hillesum, A Shelter for Sadness is rich in emotion all of which is beautifully realised in David Litchfield’s illustrations. We have more books on this theme in our collection, Books to Explain Death to Children & Help them Grieve.
This sweet, from-the-heart picture book pamphlet is a moving homage to a lady called Diane, the beloved grandmother of its young illustrator, Elsie. Elsie was only five when her Nanny passed away. Having been very close, the loss was deeply felt. Nanny was “someone who painted your life yellow and asked for nothing in return.” She was “a love beam sent directly from the sun,”, “a very special lady, whose kindness changed the world”. As a result, when it was time for her to leave, “the world seemed slightly more dreary, a little less hopeful.” But, as this poignantly personal book reminds readers, “she had never really left.” That is to say, once a person has touched our lives so profoundly, they always remain with us. Transforming the darkness of loss into a radiant homage, The Lady Who Came From the Sun will strike a chord with those who’ve lost someone special, and could inspire valuable conversations with children about death and how to remember those we love. Elsie’s illustrations are an absolute joy. Joanne Owen, LoveReading4Kids Ambassador
I Miss You Most by Cassie Hoyt is not only a very timely book for lockdown but also a timeless book for all, like myself, who are separated from loved ones by distance, work commitments or legalities. Aimed at children of 4 to 8 years, it is insightfully written in rhyme and colourfully illustrated. The story evokes memories of activities undertaken with loved ones who can no longer be met with and imagines new adventures for the future. The shared experiences and the pictures are diverse and inclusive, so that all may find relatable content and the heartache of separation is very sensitively dealt with. This book is a great way to bring loved ones together in spirit and I can imagine it would bring great comfort, especially to a child, when it is shared at bedtime, to enable sleep with fond memories. I just wish this book had been around when my grandchildren were younger, I would definitely have gifted them a copy! Drena Irish, A LoveReading4Kids Ambassador
George and his family are not coping at all well with the death of his mother – and this year will be the third Christmas since she has gone. George’s dad is completely immersed in his work and has given up on celebrating Christmas – in fact he forbids George and his Nana Flo from any form of celebration at all. Nana Flo is a bit subversive and sneaks George to the Christmas Fair at Hyde Park – where he finds Marley’s Curiosity Shop in the little temporary stalls and huts in the park. George buys a gorgeous snow globe there which has a strangely familiar Snowman inside it. The snow globe proves to be the magical portal to the traditional three Christmases – as in the original. To some extent Dad Hugo almost proves to be even more Scrooge-like than the original - but the mad adventures and the reminders of what life used to be slowly start to thaw Hugo’s self-imposed misery. This is a beautiful, magical adventure. Written with the style and panache we have come to expect from Catherine Doyle. The characters are beautifully drawn – and the purple reindeer is a genius invention! A wonderful introduction to Dickens story reimagined for the younger reader. A delight!
A Circle of Life Story | Life is everywhere, we read at the close of this exceptional picture information book, and every page prior is brimming with it, so vividly depicted in Daniel Egnéus’ illustrations that you can almost hear the yapping and gekkering of the fox cubs, their mother’s barks, and all the constant bustle and hum of the natural world. Even in death we see there is life: the mother fox is hit and killed by a car but immediately tiny creatures get to work. As the seasons roll round and winter turns to spring, new life grows again and the particles that made up the fox become something else. Text and illustration together explain the circle of life with an extraordinary clarity while retaining a sense of the sheer wonder of it all. Share this with children who want to know what happens when something dies, or who just want to understand our world better. You can find more wintry & festive stories in our Best Books for Kids this Christmas collection!
Shortlisted for the YA Book Prize 2021 | October 2020 Book of the Month | Written with luminous, crackling style, Cane Warriors is an unforgettable account of Jamaican and British history that must be known, with an unforgettable narrator at its heart. In the words of fourteen-year-old Moa, “the hope of our dreamland churned in my belly,” a powerful statement that pulses through this extraordinary story of Tacky’s War. Based on a revolutionary real-life 1760 Jamaican slave rebellion, a visceral sense of the atrocities Moa and his fellow field slaves are subjected to is evoked from the start. Their bodies are lashed and “roasted by a brutal sun”, Moa hasn’t seen his house-slave mama for three years, his papa lost an arm in mill machinery, and his friend Hamaya fears the day predatory white men will “come for me.” Spurred by the death of Miss Pam who “drop inna da field and lose her life”, and led by Miss Pam’s brother Tacky, who “trod like a king” and whose brain “work quick like Anancy”, the uprising hinges on the freedom fighters killing the plantation master. While Moa is glad to be given a pivotal role in the rebellion, he fears that success and escape will mean he’ll never see his parents or Hamaya again - his conflict is palpable, but he’s set on being a cane warrior. Outside the plantation, Moa’s world is immediately transformed, with his life as a freedom fighter evoked in fine detail (I loved the depiction of him tasting creamy, fleshy sweetsop for the first time). There are bloody battles ahead, executed in the presence of Akan gods, and driven by brotherhood and hope for that dreamland. Lucidly lyrical and raw, I cannot praise Cane Warriors enough. Find out more about the YA Book Prize including all the shortlisted titles.