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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.
Brimming with kindness, and voiced with humour by its adorable Charlton-obsessed protagonist, Adam Baron’s Some Sunny Day evokes all the fears and frustrations of pandemic lockdown from a child’s perspective. With a cast of gloriously authentic characters, it’s also a beautiful tribute to the work teachers did during the pandemic, and incredibly funny, with a mystery to boot. Cymbeline Igloo (Cym) is well and truly fed up of being locked down. His mum is super-paranoid about COVID-19 and takes social distancing to the extreme. She’s also obsessed with keeping busy, which is why a massive clear out leads to her accidently giving away Cym’s beloved signed football shirt. A powerful subplot about the experience of refugees comes to the fore when Cym discovers who has his shirt. Then, when COVID strikes close to home and his fellow Charlton-supporting neighbour Mrs Stebbings, the much-loved school cook, is taken into hospital, Cym realises what really matters, and rallies his class to pivot their WWII history assignment into a magical project to make her feel better. Incredibly moving (reader, I cried), Some Sunny Day also brilliantly evokes the hilarious absurdities of lockdown, from taking daily exercise with a TV personality and baking sourdough bread, to supermarket shortages, and the triumph/despair of discovering/missing out on that last pack of toilet paper or bottle of ketchup. A truly special story that will chime with thousands of young readers, this would also make a great book to read as a class.
Alternating between the engaging narratives of two teenage boys, Malcolm Duffy’s Read Between the Lies is a riveting, read-in-one-sitting page-turner, sharing insights into dyslexia as it also explores family frictions and how to support the people around you. Soon-to-be-stepbrothers Ryan and Tommy are as different as ice-cream and cabbage. Tommy has recently been released from a young offenders’ prison, while Ryan is a piano-playing good lad who’s moved down south with his dad following his parents’ divorce. In Ryan’s words, “Don’t do cooking but hear it’s all about the blend of ingredients. Same with families. Ours is all wrong. Like ice-cream and cabbage”. Despite their marked differences, the teenagers do have something in common — they’re both dyslexic, but have very different ways of dealing with it. Tommy’s journey through handling prejudice against his criminal past (“a single bad decision doesn’t make you bad”) and learning to read is gripping, moving and - ultimately - uplifting, as is Ryan’s dedication to teaching Tommy to read. As Ryan’s mum announces her plan for them to move, and Tommy discovers long-buried family secrets, the perfectly-paced plot ramps up the stakes, with plenty of humour and touching moments shining through the boys’ troubles.
May 2022 YA Book of the Month | Taking in the trauma of enslavement and apartheid, Mary Watson’s Blood to Poison is a uniquely bold and gripping Cape Town-set thriller that melds contemporary life and history with a parallel magical city — a world of furious witches and practitioners of magic who hide in plain sight. A world in which a 17-year-old young woman harnesses her rage to transcend a family curse. Savannah’s curse has been passed through her family’s female bloodline for generations, originating with Hella, “who had been enslaved, forced to work for a cruel family. Her anger grew until one day, it exploded out of her”. Hella cursed the family to “die before you have fully lived.” And now one woman in every generation of Savannah’s family is destined to die young, with anger exploding from them in the months before they’re due to die. Some of Savannah’s aunts have noticed the rage rising in her, the tell-tale marks on her skin. And then she encounters the witches from the curse story that lives in her bones… Savannah’s furious fight to transcend the curse is visceral and ablaze with elemental power, and Blood to Poison strikes a perfect balance between showing rage as a form of resistance and telling a gripping story of self-discovery.
This is adventure number three for Joy Applebloom, her family and friends but, gloriously, things show now sign of calming down. Indeed, to Joy it seems exciting new things are ‘fizzing like just discovered comets through our sky.’ Her grandad and big sister have new relationships making them happy, her parents are enjoying their new jobs, but for Joy there is a new teacher – the dazzling Mr Suarez – and a new girl in class, Phoebe Dark. Joy is determined they’ll be friends, she just needs to find the key to Phoebe. Elegantly told, full of humour, insight and memorable characters, Planet Joy is heavenly reading. A series to recommend to fans of Lara Williamson and Lisa Thompson.
April 2022 Book of the Month | A Julia Eccleshare Pick of the Month April 2022 | No two children could be more different than Zofia and Tom. Noisy Zofia lives happily with her dad as her Mum died when she was born. She buzzes with a wild energy that makes her irresistible but also something of a handful. Quiet, anxious Tom lives with his mum. He is full of fears largely caused by his scarily violent father who is now in prison. He longs to be more outgoing but doesn’t know how to manage it. They are about to start living together and also to become half siblings to a new baby in a blended family that neither of them wants to be part of. Each tells their story in a series of contrasting short episodes that brilliantly capture their contrasting characters and their journey towards this enormous change in their lives. Kayta Balen has a rare gift for understanding what it feels like to be a child and creating characters that reflect that that vividly.
A Julia Eccleshare Pick of the Month April 2022 | Award-winning poet Rachel Rooney and illustrator Zehra Hicks have already tacked Problems and Worries. Now they look at Fear using the same winning combination of Rooney’s simple and highly effective text which names and looks at several different kinds of fear and where you might find it without ever making them seem too alarming and Hicks’ bold illustrations which show that though fear may be all around us it can quite easily be seen off. An excellent book for parents and children to share and return to often.
April 2022 Book of the Month | A Julia Eccleshare Pick of the Month April 2022 | Best-selling Sophie Anderson weaves magic into this vivid and richly imagined story that also carries a powerful message about the importance of overcoming prejudice and learning to love everyone – even if they seem different. Linnet’s life is turned upside down when the community she lives in suddenly becomes divided. Following a terrible tragedy, the magical alkonosts who have the unique distinction of being able to sing magic and the humans with whom they share the island suddenly go from living in harmony to becoming deadly enemies. Linnet and her father are banished from the beauty of their island and forced to live in an ugly swamp. Here they scratch out a living while also living with the constant fear of being caught and killed by the humans. Linnet has yet to develop her magical singing voice. Can she find another way to bring the two sides of her world together and make a new whole? Vividly imagined and rich in detail, this is also a thoughtful and beautiful way of encouraging tolerance.
A Julia Eccleshare Pick of the Month March 2022 | Award-winning Kiran Millwood Hargrave tells a story of great power and significance with incredible sensitivity and writerly skill. By drawing on both, Julia and the Shark is magical, imaginative and mysterious while also dealing with complex emotions and situations. Julia and her parents take off from their home in Cornwall to live in a lighthouse on Shetland. Her father is working on fixing the lighthouse light while her mother is determined to explore the wide and very cold seas to find an elusive Greenland shark. While Julia’s father is practical, methodical and minds about numbers, Julia’s mother minds about words and about the scientific research she is so passionate about. While Julia begins to make friends with the few other children around, her mother becomes more and more absorbed in the search for the shark. Nothing will stop her - not the danger and not the cost. Julia wants to help her mother to fulfil her dream but she also knows that there is something irrational, uncontrolled and deadly dangerous about what she is planning to do. How Julia tries to keep hold of her mother is an emotional rollercoaster. Kiran Millwood Hargrave explores the confusing effect of a parent’s deteriorating mental health in a story that is lyrical and empowering as well as profound.
Max would probably be the first to tell you that there’s nothing special about him. He’s just an ordinary boy, living an ordinary life, until the pandemic hits. Even then, his experiences are no different really to anyone else’s - we were all worried, confused, frustrated, bored; all missing family and friends and hoping it would soon be over. But then, without really planning it, Max does something extraordinary. He decides he’ll count to a million and, with the help of family, neighbours and friends, he does. It takes him weeks, but he does it, and along the way he becomes a fundraiser too, finally raising over £3million for NHS Charities. Max tells us all of this directly, with quite a bit of humour but mostly just honestly and his voice, his outlook, make this story something really special. Max takes the story of our shared experience and fills it with a sense of achievement so that, somehow, through his counting, he recognises the fortitude and resilience shown by everyone. Highly readable, often poignant, always entertaining, this is a Covid-19 feelgood story.
10 Steps For Coping With Your Parents' Separation | There has been a real gap in the market for a book like this and written by an expert child psychologist and children’s author team, it strikes exactly the right note of being friendly and engaging, helped by the lively layout and illustrations, with being informative, sensitive, and honest. The motif throughout of this experience being a difficult journey to negotiate and you need to ensure you have the psychological tools to survive that journey, is very successful. It has ten chapters forming the ten-step guide to coping with the trauma of your family falling apart, taking the reader from the first stages of denial and the natural desire for everything to stay the same, through to how to cope with new partners and their children and the practical difficulties of life in two houses. Each chapter ends with a list of survival kit essential takeaways and a positive affirmation to repeat, having talked through what the child reader might be experiencing and explaining both the feelings they might have and the feelings of those around them. The positive strategies outlined will be empowering and supportive. There are real life stories in every chapter to enhance the message that they are not the first to go through this and that none of it is their fault. The glossary at the end of words and phrases that they might hear and explanations of the roles of arbitrator and social worker etc are very useful, as is the list of other resources and places to find help. Sadly, this is a book that every school needs to have available and will be useful reading for every adult involved in childcare as well, of course, as giving helpful advice to parents about how to make things better for their children in this situation.
Erin's daddy sees the colour in everything. Even on the greyest days, they put on their wellies and go splashing in puddles because, Daddy says, 'We can't see rainbows without rain!' But what happens when the greyest day of all comes, and Daddy isn't there any more? Can Erin learn to find colour in the world again? This deeply sensitive picture book about the loss of a parent is the ideal starting point for conversations about love, loss and learning to live again.
February 2022 Book of the Month | Golden Boys is another heartfelt dream of a YA novel from Phil Stamper (we loved his previous novels, The Gravity of Us and As Far as You’ll Take Me), an author who’s fast made a name for himself as a compassionate creator of young gay characters navigating the often tricky transition from teenager to young adult. Golden Boys delivers beams of hope and exhilaration as four gay friends from small-town Ohio embark on the potential summer-of-a-lifetime ahead of starting their senior year at high school. It’s the first summer they’ll be spending apart, and the first time what they do during the break might count towards their future lives. To show how important this is, the author provides an earnest, extended exposition of their hopes and fears ahead of their journeys, with all four boys keenly conscious of the significance of their plans. Anxious Gabe is volunteering with Save the Trees Foundation in Boston, while Sal has landed his dream internship with a senator in Washington DC. Artistic Reese jets to Paris to study graphic design, and less-privileged Heath heads to Florida to work in his aunt’s amusement arcade to make much longed-for family connections. New experiences throw up new possibilities and questions relating to all areas of the boys’ lives. Sal, for example, winds up being overworked and having doubts about college, while Reese realises his passion might lie in fashion design. Add to that the rollercoaster of new friendships, possible romance, and long-held connections that might turn out to be more. and you have a compelling story of identity that leaves readers longing to know how the Golden Boys’ senior year plays out, and what paths they take further down the line.
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