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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.
May 2021 Book of the Month | Honest, authentic and (ultimately) uplifting, Holly Bourne’s The Yearbook will strike a powerful chord with young women on the brink of leaving secondary school. Realistically raw in its portrayal of toxic relationships (from poisonous school peers to abusive partners), with an underdog protagonist readers will wholeheartedly root for, and a sweet, slow-burning romance that will melt the most cynical of hearts, this is classic contemporary YA. Budding journalist Paige lives a lonely, isolated life - “the undeniable truth was that I was invisible as well as unlovable. Nobody could see me see me at all, let alone look at me and see the potential to store their heart there. People don’t fall in love with wallpaper. Or silence.” At the same time, her parents’ marriage shows the jeopardies of falling in love with the wrong person. She and her mum walk on eggshells around her erratic, coercively controlling dad who flips from jolly joker to enraged monster over the tiniest thing. At least Paige has the school newspaper to keep her occupied - until it’s hijacked by malicious narcissists from the official Leavers’ Committee who want to create a yearbook. As Paige’s family life disintegrates, she realises that the infiltrators steering the yearbook are re-writing history. The same goes for Paige’s dad and his ilk - people who think “they’re the hero of their own story, but, actually, in the pursuit of being so important, they’re often the villain of everyone else’s”. Thankfully, though, hope comes in the form of her independent-minded aunt Polly (“she seemed to genuinely care for me”) and soul-lifting Elijah, who supports Paige’s quest to find her voice and speak the truth after they meet through a copy of To Kill a Mockingbird.
May 2021 Books of the Month | This clever and thoroughly charming picture book is full of information about emperor penguins and human dads too. Sam is waiting for his dad to come home and for their nightly storytelling session – his dad makes up brilliant stories. But Dad is late, arriving only just in time in fact, and Sam is put out; he refuses a dinosaur superhero story, normally his favourite. So his dad tells him a very different story, the true story of Papa Penguin who waits in the freezing cold, guarding his egg, hardly moving for weeks and weeks until at last the egg hatches and he sees his chick. I can’t think of a better way to demonstrate a father’s unconditional, superhero love for his child, no wonder Sam loves it and asks for the same story the next night. Momoko Abe’s illustrations are full of warmth and family love, even in Antarctica and like Sam, children will want this story again and again. A final double page spread includes more facts about how real-life Papa Penguins behave.
Boy lives in a caravan on his own in the woods. His dad, John, is in prison and promises to get out soon. All the boy needs to do is survive alone for a little while longer. But dark forces are circling - like the dangerous man in the Range Rover, who is looking for his stolen money. And then there are the ancient forces that have lain asleep in the woods for an age...
Gramps and Grandad were adventurers. They would surf, climb mountains, and tour the country in their amazing camper. But after Gramps died, Granddad hasn’t felt like travelling anymore. So, their granddaughter comes up with a clever plan to help cheer him up... This beautiful picture book honours love and reminds us not only to remember those we have lost, but to celebrate them.
A Julia Eccleshare Pick of the Month May 2021 | Award-winning Jeanne Willis perfectly captures a little girl’s excitement and fear as she works up to taking her first solo bike ride. She knows the freedom and exhilaration it will bring but a part of her remains almost too scared to try. Her daddy is reassuring and encouraging and full of good advice about bumps in the road that goes far beyond just the difficulties of bike riding! At last, with daddy to keep her steady she is off! And she is flying! Now it is daddy who is worried…Will his little girl every come back now she’s got this taste of freedom? Tony Ross’s illustrations match the moments of exhilaration and anxiety perfectly making this a joyful celebration of the importance of letting go that will strike a chord for parents and children alike. Daddy, Don't Let Go was originally published in 2012.
Saffy's Angel really deserves the top honours. This heavenly little book tells the story of Cadmium, Saffron, Indigo and Rose, siblings who are each as colourful as their exotic names suggest. Saffy's Angel is written with a simple, understated elegance that allows the reader access to the kind of family we would all, secretly, love to belong to. Each character is drawn with an enviable artistry coupled with, one suspects, a tongue-in the cheek that adds a sharp realistic air to a modern household with a heart of pure, old-fashioned gold. And it is these fabulous characters who lead the unfurling of the story, easing the reader through the pages with an irresistible wit and warmth that smartly avoids cosiness but nonetheless leaves a soothing rosy glow. Hilary’s real strength lies in her understanding of young people and her ability to evoke them very simply.
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.
Big Sky Mountain is a love letter to nature and the wild, inspired by Alex's own childhood with his grandma in the Malvern Hills, and the woodland and cabin he now owns in Kent. The books have a fictional, non-specified location, but draw on inspiration from the landscape of the Highlands of Scotland as well as the wilderness of North America. Part of a four book series that will span the four different natural environments of Big Sky Mountain, from river to forest to mountain to coast, with stories and adventures set in diverse natural habitats and with different animals.
Meixing Lim and her family have arrived in the New Land to begin a New Life. Everything is scary and different. Their ever-changing house is confusing and she finds it hard to understand the other children at school. Yet in her magical glasshouse, with a strange black and white cat, Meixing finds a place to dream. But then Meixing's life comes crashing down in unimaginable ways. Only her two new and unexpected friends can help. By being brave together, they will learn how to make the stars shine brighter. A Glasshouse of Stars is based on the author's childhood and beautifully illustrates the importance of friendship, kindness and love.
Longlisted for the UKLA Book Awards 2021 | Newbery Medal winner Rebecca Stead writes books that are rich with ideas and acknowledge her readers’ intelligence and intuition. Eight-year-old Bea is the central character in her latest novel, and, typically, there’s lots going on in her life. She divides her time between her mother’s and father’s homes following their divorce and visits a therapist who helps with her anxieties. The story culminates in her father’s wedding to his new partner, Jesse. As ever, we move back and forth in time, and discover much about Bea’s inner life as well as her daily routine in New York. Relationships with family and friends propel the story and there are some real shocks and surprises for readers, plus a gradual understanding of the things that will never change for Bea. It’s beautifully written, a thoughtful, sensitive account of growing up and growing resilience and trust. Fans of Rebecca Stead will also enjoy Kate DiCamillo’s books and Susin Nielsen’s.
Hilary McKay has a brilliant ear for family dialogue as well as a shrewd understanding of the passions of adolescence and a wickedly sure touch about the complex ins and outs of sibling relationships. Permanent Rose is one of the large Casson family whose lives have been described in previous stories. When Indigo’s friend Tom goes back to the US, Permanent Rose is left moping for him and longing for his return. But, will he come back? All the rest of the family have worries of their own which make them too busy to care but Permanent Rose is on a mission and she won’t give up lightly.
Lots of young children will have grandparents who are suffering from dementia and The Forgettery offers a warm and comforting way to talk about it and understand it. In the story Amelia and her forgetful Granny go for a walk and discover the magical Forgettery, a place where you can find everything you’ve ever forgotten. Amelia’s room is full of gloves, socks and thank yous, but Granny’s is huge and full of happy memories. After they get home, Amelia makes a memory book for Granny that they can both share. The story demonstrates the importance of memory, explains gently how memories can come and go in the elderly, and offers the promise of new memories to be made. Laura Hughes’ illustrations are full of joy and tenderness and though the subject is a sad one, it is a book full of light and laughter.
A Julia Eccleshare Pick of the Month April 2021 | Award-winning author and former Children’s Laureate Anne Fine has a rare gift for revealing family relationships accurately and painfully but with laugh out loud humour. She is at her best unpicking the complicated feelings around family break up and exploring the devious means all parties have of keeping secrets and uncovering the truth. When Scarlet’s dynamic mother decides to leave her quieter father Scarlet has to go with her. Luckily, she can still see her dad at weekends and she still has her best friend Alice to share everything with. Gradually Scarlet finds that there are other people to think about too including her mother’s new boyfriend and the possible new partner for her father. She also finds she has a lot to learn about her parents as individuals as well as in relationship to her. Anne Fine is as full of family insight and humour as ever.
Selected for The Book Box by LoveReading4Kids | Stewart Foster has made an award-winning name for himself as an author who writes stories which provide real insights into other lives, often with characters who must negotiate some quite challenging emotional territory. This fourth novel takes him into some very personal history having been a foster carer himself, and tells the story of Sam McCann, a boy who longs for a permanent home and a real family. Sam is an unforgettable and not always likeable character and the Perfect Parent Project he launches with his best friend Leah may be genuinely funny in Sam’s almost wilful bad choices and the consequent inescapable disasters that occur, but we gradually find out more of his back story and begin to understand his impulses and empathise with his lack of self-esteem and the setbacks he has endured. Sam is also learning along the way. Recognising his own self-obsessed neglect of his friend’s problems and waking up to the importance of the relationships under his nose and the unimportance of the qualities he had thought were paramount for a parent. These being the BMW, the latest gadgets and the Disneyland holidays that show that he is, in many ways, a very typical eleven year old! Never patronising nor preachy, this engaging, highly entertaining and fast paced story will prompt some valuable discussion about other lives and experiences as well as deepening children’s understanding of their own emotional responses. An absolute must for empathy collections, this will also be a popular leisure read.
Interest Age 8+ Reading Age 8 | November 2020 Book of the Month | Tom McLaughlin’s new story stars a royal family, but as you’ve never imagined them before! When hapless Bertie, the Queen’s brother, gambles away their entire estate on a game of Happy Families, the whole family are turfed out. It seems no-one is particularly sorry to see them go either, they’ve been stuck-up, selfish and entitled. Life in their new home in King Street, Windsor takes some getting used to, but mixing with the hoi-polloi, aka their new neighbours, teaches the former royals to be much nicer people (as well as giving them a taste for Pot Noodle). It’s delightfully silly and very funny, but actually full of useful life lessons too. Published by Barrington Stoke, this is accessible to all readers including those reluctant, struggling or dyslexic.
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
A beautifully illustrated story, written with a light and humorous touch, that celebrates nontraditional families and captures exactly what lies at the heart of family life - love. 'Elvi, which one is your mum?' 'They're both my mum.' 'But which one's your real mum?' When Nicholas wants to know which of Elvi's two mums is her real mum, she gives him lots of clues. Her real mum is a circus performer, and a pirate, and she even teaches spiders the art of web. But Nicholas still can't work it out! Luckily, Elvi knows just how to explain it to her friend.
October 2020 Debut of the Month | At once a moving adventure and a thrilling multi-layered mystery, Kereen Getten’s dazzling debut When Life Gives You Mangoes is set in the close-knit community of Sycamore Hill, Jamaica, where Clara spends her days playing ‘pick leaf’, having fun at the river and avoiding the wrath of moody Ms Gee. She used to love surfing, but now she’s scared of the sea and she can’t remember why. In fact, Clara can’t remember anything about last summer. She also can’t explain why her best friend Gaynah is being mean to her, and no one will tell her why Pastor Brown has turned the entire town against her Uncle Eldorath. Despite these unsettling mysteries, the superbly-evoked Sycamore Hill is a steady kind of place. In Clara’s words, “You live and you die here. No one leaves and no one new comes in. Sometimes that’s a good thing because you know everyone, and everyone knows you. Other times you get tired of seeing the same faces and want something new.” And then something new happens in the form of Rudy, a cool, confident girl from Britain who turns out to be Ms Gee’s granddaughter. At Rudy’s arrival, “the entire village is buzzing. This is the most excitement we have ever had,” and it’s not long before the girls strike up a beautiful bond. Soon enough, Clara is enjoying escapades her parents wouldn’t entirely approve of because “there is something magnetic about Rudy and her adventures.” As Clara’s memory begins to return in tempestuous flashbacks, hurricane season brings a devastating storm that coincides with everything changing - truths are laid bare, ghosts are laid to rest, and a new landscape is left in the wake of the upheavals. Poignant on friendship, family and community, in all their tricky, complicated, life-affirming forms, this Middle Grade wonder also makes pertinent reference to police prejudice in the UK. “Where I live...there are some bad kids, but there are a lot more good kids, but the police think we’re all the same,” Rudy remarks. Clara’s huge-hearted story had me hooked and charmed from start to finish.
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