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The books in this section cover a range of PSHE topics including bullying, disability, family issues, divorce and adoption. There are both fiction and non-fiction titles and cover age ranges from Toddler to Older Teen.
‘You Will Always Be in My Heart’ by Arlene Nikita Mensah and beautifully Illustrated by Mauro Lirussi is a story about big life changes through a young person’s eyes. Cookie’s Mum and Dad get married and Cookie and her mum move from Trinidad to England so that they can all live as a family. This is the first of many changes for Cookie and each time she remains strong with the help of her faith. This book has a light hand while dealing with a lot of sensitive subjects, from moving to a new country to divorce and abuse. Throughout the emphasis is on keeping faith and hope, with quotes from the International Children’s Bible at the start of each chapter. I felt that this was a well structured and well-written book, with lovely illustrations. I think that this would be an interesting read for any child going through significant upheaval, but I would echo the advice in the Author’s Foreword and use this book as an opportunity to start a conversation with a parent or relative about what’s happening in the story and any feelings brought up by the narrative. A sensitive, autobiographical tale about change, loss and separation, told through the eyes of a young girl with the powerful message that no matter how you're separated from a loved one, they’ll always be in your heart.
A Julia Eccleshare Pick of the Month September 2021 | September 2021 Book of the Month | Billy is desperate to make things change at home. Her father disappeared before he was born: he and mum had been ok when they had been alone together but now his mother’s new partner has spoilt everything. Billy is frightened for himself and he is frighted for his mum. To make a point he runs away for a few days hiding in a semi-ruined pill-box in a local graveyard. Cleverly telling the story in two narratives, from Billy’s perspective and his mum’s and interweaving other characters and their experience from whom they can learn, Pam Smy explores a range of complex emotions thrown up by a difficult situation.
Book Band: Dark Red (Ideal for ages 10+) | A contemporary story about life in foster care, perfect for fans of Jacqueline Wilson. Ruby Ali's eighteen-year-old sister Alisha has left the care centre where they live, and Ruby is being sent to live with a new foster family. If she can sabotage life at her new home, she'll get to go and live with her sister again, right? But mission break up doesn't go exactly according to plan... This funny, heart-warming story features black-and-white illustrations by Parwinder Singh.
Spey is from a broken home – but happy, settled and doing well at school - living with his Mum and getting on with life. That is, until he gets two surprises one on top of the other. His father, an ex-convict who he has never met before turns up on his sofa for Christmas Day and his Mum gives him a letter that has been stuck in the post for some time… This is the start of an edgy relationship developing with his long-lost Dad as they search for the sender of the letter – a playgroup friend of Spey’s who has become involved with county lines drug organisers. Spey is driven throughout all of the novel by the authentic emotions of a teen trying to come to terms with family, broken promises and broken friendships. Told in the voices of Spey and Dee (the county lines member) throughout their lives provide a stark contrast but with both expressing longing for the friend they think they have lost. The novel is set over three to four days one Christmas as Spey sets out on his quest to find his almost impossibly lost friend. Lawrence’s writing is always compelling and packed with empathy for her fully imagined characters – this is no different. The sense of place and of alienation is realised in full and the sense of urgency in finding Dee keeps you reading long after you should have closed the book! A sure hand guides this odyssey as Spey searches for his friend whilst full of his own conflicting emotions about his father. An excellent read.
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.
How hard can it be, thinks Harry, to look after his tiny gran for a day? All he has to do is make sure she gets to the hairdresser and then on to pick up her special life-time achievement award at the Caught Short ceremony, the country’s biggest loo-roll celebration. Simple, yes? Well, no, it turns out… Unsurprisingly, Mini has ideas of her own about what she wants to do and Harry has a hard time keeping up. In fact, their day out involves a trip to the local theme park, the accidental kidnap of a wallaby, and the theft of a fork-lift truck. By the time they get to the ceremony, Harry’s having the time of his life and Mini has decided he’s her favourite grandchild. As adventures go, it’s extremely silly and very, very funny, and no matter how ridiculous their escapades, Mini and Harry come out smiling. This is a book to cheer everyone up, whether they are 11 or 74, and a gorgeous example of an intergenerational relationship too.
Friendship and family in all their complicated forms, domestic abuse, bullying, finding the strength to confront the truth - Yasmin Rahman’s This is My Truth packs a whole lot of big themes into its compassionate pages. The harrowingly authentic scenes of an abusive marriage show how male bullies operate in the domestic sphere - the control, the pathetic physical intimidation and harm they conceal from family and friends. This is powerfully important stuff, powerfully and honestly portrayed by the author of the acclaimed All the Things We Never Said. As Amani faces the stresses of her impending GCSEs (exacerbated by the pressure to become a vet like her abusive, controlling father), she finds an outlet in doing what she really loves - making films, “practically the only thing that brings me joy.” But alongside making playful pastiche movies with her little brother Ismail (their relationship is a thing of beauty), she documents the Bad Nights by filming her face while listening to her father abuse her mother. Meanwhile, Amani’s best friend – super-smart, super-confident Huda - stands up to bullies, but hides secret struggles of her own. Huda lives with loving foster parents, but with their own baby on the way, she’s scared she’ll be pushed out. As a result of their secrecy, Amani and Huda are envious of each other’s home lives, until Huda witnesses an abusive outburst. Though it (rightfully) doesn’t shirk from the brutal reality of bullying and abuse, This is My Truth is ultimately a story of hope and survival as the seeds of future flourishing are sown.
August 2021 Debut of the Month | Winner of the Everything with Words’ YA Competition 2019, Rebecca Henry’s The Sound of Everything is an authentically gritty, involving coming-of-age novel that speaks to young people who struggle with feeling unseen, unheard and unloved. Shipped from foster home to foster home, frequently betrayed, and having “never had a dad that I could call Daddy”, it’s no wonder Kadie (aka Goldilocks) has trust issues. The only thing she’s sure of in this world is music - listening to it, and creating it. It’s the “only thing that keeps my head straight.” To protect herself, she’s set out three rules: “1. Don’t count on anyone. 2. Act. Always act. 3. Be prepared to lose everything.” Constantly in trouble at school, though told she has potential, Kadie bonds with a boy called Lips, aka Dayan, the name he reserves for use by special people, of which Kadie is one. Dayan records with his AMD mandem (Amalgamandem) and she’s happy to be invited to hang out with them, while remaining ever-mindful of the fickleness of group dynamics: “one day you’re in the group, the next you’re invisible.” But, just as things start to take an upturn, everything explodes in the aftermath of hideous online trolling and trouble with her foster sister. What’s unique about this novel is the author’s considered, long-game exposition of Kadie’s complex character - it’s not rushed, not forced too soon to serve the plot. And, true to life, her problems aren’t easily solved either - it really is powerfully authentic all round, from Kadie’s voice and interactions, to its portrayal of mental health problems, among them self-harm. At times Kadie will have you pulling your hair out at her own-worst-enemy outbursts, but mainly, though, you’ll warm to her. You’ll will her to find her way. Appropriately enough for a girl named Goldilocks, there is - ultimately - a glint of gold among the grit. I don’t want to spoil it, so let’s just say she finds what might turn out to be her “just right” and begins to learn to open up to people she can trust.
Striking a brilliant balance between providing excellent entertainment and exploring topical issues, Tamsin Winter’s Girl (in real life) tells a lively, LOL-some, life-affirming tale. At its heart is Eva, who’s lived in the public eye since birth. Actually, since before birth - her parents have been vlogging about her on their All About Eva YouTube channel since she was in the womb. While getting free stuff from sponsors might be pretty cool (at first), the idea of living an unfiltered life, free from the shackles of endless product-promotion, has escalating appeal, especially when Eva’s parents go against her wishes and broadcast news of her first period to their gazillion subscribers. While feeling embarrassed and betrayed, Eva quickly bonds with new girl Carys, who “just seemed to get it. She was the first person in forever to ask me if I minded this stuff.” And, as it happens, Carys also has the skills to help Eva make serious changes. When her plan is set in motion, the fall-out builds to an epic storm that will have readers reeling, gasping and cringing (and, in all probability, shedding tears). Countering this storm, the pertinent wisdom of Eva’s glorious Danish granny is a pacifying presence, and her friends Hallie and Spud are adorable, authentic delights. Above all, and through everything, Eva’s voice is utterly engaging.
Once again Polly Ho-Yen shows her facility at injecting a thrilling element of sci-fi and mild horror into her stories of very real children and authentic depictions of relationships with family and friends. What could be a familiar tale of a young boy dealing with family break up and a parent with what we can see are mental health issues, becomes a nightmare battle for survival. Billy’s mum, Sylvia, is constantly teaching him the rules for how to survive alone, often taking him out of school for practical lessons. But one lesson gets life-threateningly out of hand and Billy is sent to live with his father while she is hospitalized. Billy has to learn to trust his father and his potential new family and also accept the true friendship offered by Anwar. They will all need each other when the doom that Sylvia seemed to be expecting arrives in the shape of a terrifying virus. Billy is a character that readers will really care about and admire his courage and resilience. He learns some valuable lessons about people being stronger together and finally understands what happened to his mother. While the resolution of the crisis might stretch credibility for adult readers, younger readers will gallop through to the nail-biting climax in this exciting adventure.
Interest Teen Reading Age 8 | “A poor young girl abandoned by her mum and then shoved in the care system at the age of six after living with her poorly nan.” This is how thirteen-year-old Amy summarises her life near the opening of Know My Place, Eve Ainsworth’s poignant, compassionate story of a girl’s longing to feel at home while moving through the foster care system. Amy has “had more than nine social workers and none have lasted over a year”, and she’s had plenty of foster families too. Now en route to a new family, the Dawsons, her social worker says she hopes this will be Amy’s permanent placement, after “what happened at the Gibsons.” The intrigue about what happened is perfectly plotted, with the narrative shifting back to Amy’s traumatic time there. Understandably, she’s reluctant to believe her new home is as perfect as it seems. A lovely home, loving foster parents, kind brother Kenny - it has to be too good to be true. I loved Amy’s voice - her first-person narrative is pitch-perfect and endearingly authentic. What’s more, since this is published by Barrington Stoke, Know My Place has been written and printed with struggling and dyslexic readers in mind (teenage interest, with a reading age of 8+) making it an ultra-inclusive, thoroughly gripping and moving story for fans of real-life fiction. Particularly suitable for struggling and dyslexic teen readers.
August 2021 Book of the Month | Young readers who like animals and dream of exciting outdoor adventures with just a touch of magic, will love Alex Milway’s new series. Rosa doesn’t know what to expect when the tiny plane drops her off at her Grandma Nan’s house on Big Sky Mountain. It’s deep in the wilderness, about 200 miles from the shops, and the nearest neighbour is a moose called Albert. Albert is a talking moose in fact and Rosa quickly makes friends with a whole host of other animals, all perfectly able to have a chat. Adventures come thick and fast, and Rosa finds herself relying for help on these capable animals. It’s great wish-fulfilment stuff, who wouldn’t want to live with animal friends and an unflappable grandma in the middle of such beautiful countryside. The animal characters provide lots of humourous moments and beneath it all there are important messages about the environment too. Wild, and gently wonderful.
A hugely original story which imaginatively captures the complexity of migration for a child. Having suddenly inherited a house from a relative, Meixing Liam and her family are newly arrived in the New Land to begin a New Life. Everything is confusing. Everything is different and everything seems to be going wrong. Cleverly using a third person voice to tell a first person story, Meixing narrates the practical and emotional swirl of her life in a way that enables readers readily to understand just how baffling a new life is. It also allows Meixing to escape into a magical greenhouse where she can escape into an extraordinary dream world. When the dream world collapses, Meixing finds unexpected help and support which show her the power and importance of friendship even in this strange New Life.
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