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Children are keen to learn about the world about them, who makes the laws, how they are governed and the philosophies and ethics that affect our country and the people who hold power. Learn more about citizenship and our political system with the books in this special section.
Eric and Terry Fan are renowned author illustrators with such gems as The Night Gardener and the Kate Greenaway shortlisted Ocean Meets Sky. For this collaboration they have been joined by brother Devin for the first time. Stunningly beautiful images are what we have come to expect, and this is no exception. The enticing, mysterious cover spotlights a little creature in a bell jar. Beneath the jacket the cover looks like a blackboard covered with code, double helixes and creature sketches. The endpapers are design files to start and shelves of completed products at the end. We know then that this is about creating things. We meet our little creature again and we are shown the contrast between the naturalistic wold and an ordinary shop – Perfect Pets- on an ordinary street, but far below there is an underground world and a laboratory where they make the perfect pets and where they put the Failed Projects like Barnabus. Alerted of impending recycling doom, by his friend Patrick the cockroach, who has been entrancing him with stories of the natural world above, Barnabus and fellow Failed Projects work together on a daring and thrilling escape and find refuge hiding in plain sight in a nearby park. Being a team and supporting each other is crucial to their success. A multi-layered story that will appeal to a wide range of ages and prompt much discussion and debate about ethics and freedom. In a world where young people are constantly bombarded with social media that promotes artificial standards of perfection, this empowering fable has an important message to share.
How to Take Your Place in the World | Teacher, writer, fashion icon and activist, Sinéad Burke, also happens to be a little person. This is her preferred description and one for which there were no words in the Irish language and as she recounts here, she wrote to Fóras na Gaelige, the organisation that oversees the development of the language, and 'duine beag' is now in the dictionary. This is just one example of how Sinéad approaches her life - not being defined or dictated to by the perceptions and assumptions of others. Disability is not a lack of anything, it is a difference and we are all different and unique and must make the most of our lives and our dreams. The friendly and informal presentation of the personal anecdotes, other real-life stories and calls to action are matched by the non-patronising tone of the writing. Children and young people will respond to the honesty, respect, warmth and empathy she shows her readers. The contents encourage every individual to value themselves and to think about their strengths and the things they can do better and then look at how they can make a difference to the world. It will of course make every reader see the world as it might appear to people who are different and the challenges this brings and inspire them to want to make the world a more accessible place. While it is particularly empowering for those living with differences to see themselves reflected in a book, this is an important message for every child and every child (and the adults who care for them) will benefit from reading it. A very necessary purchase for every parent and every school library.
What a great little book and a wonderful way of explaining democracy and the intricacies of the voting system: Perfectly timed for the American Presidential Elections. What was so clever was Valdez’s ability to explain whilst still maintaining an interesting and fun children’s story. There were also other messages running through the story, such as loyalty to one’s friends and peer rivalry within a classroom. I also liked learning about Mexican cookery with the odd baking tip thrown in for good measure! Managing to explain the freedom of information, fake news and what a boycott is to such young children is quite a feat. I think her quote, ‘never a perfect candidate in an election. How could there be? People aren’t perfect’ was particularly poignant. I think my favourite message however was ‘read, question, think’ – a message for life for all of us. A clever informative book with some great illustrations by David Roberts.
Love Yourself and Grow Up Fearless | The Body Image Book for Girls, published by Cambridge University Press, is certainly worth a place in any school library. Authored by a Professor in Psychology, whose research specialises in body image issues, the reader can have every confidence that the contents are backed up by authoritative evidence, but this is no dry academic tome. As she states in her introduction, Dr Markey is a mother of teenagers, a boy and a girl, and she really cares about girls having the information they need to make the right decisions and to develop healthy habits. When young girls are bombarded with images of airbrushed celebrities and social media pressures it is no wonder that most girls are dissatisfied with some aspect of their bodies and this can lead to anxiety, depression and worse. With an estimated 1.25 million people in the UK having an eating disorder there can be no doubt that there is a real need for a book like this to counter the misinformation out there. The ten chapters cover very clearly and concisely an enormous amount of information ranging from puberty and body changes to self-care, mental health, basic nutritional science, healthy eating habits and making food fun, physical activity and loving our bodies for what they do (not how they look)and how to handle social media and challenging fat shaming language. Each chapter has My Story sections with real life experiences, myth busting boxes, Q&A and a valuable concluding summary of the key points. Combined with an excellent glossary and helpful illustrations the reader can quickly find the information that they need at any given time. But the unpatronizing and non-didactive tone also makes this an enjoyable and engaging read likely to be read from cover to cover. Highly recommended for age nine upwards to the many adults who would benefit from its wisdom too! For more books with a strong, feminist theme, visit our Girl Power feature.
For fans of Jon Klassen, this sensitive and impactful picture book from award-winning author-illustrator Christian Robinson is all about seeing the world from different points of view, and the perfect entry point for parents to help teach their little people about empathy and community.
Beautifully told and illustrated this luminous allegorical adventure describes how one little girl’s dark and lonely existence is lit up by the arrival of ‘one spark’ in the form of a book – ‘faint and fading in the dark’. The spark’s embers glow and catch light and we see the girl follow them through an extraordinary world, brightened always by books, falling Alice in Wonderland-like from the sky, sprouting flowers and always shining in the dark. Enrolled at school, her heart’s delight, her story takes flight again from the pages of a book to transform another lonely girl’s life. There’s lots to wonder at, but the overall message is clear – the transforming, empowering, joy-bringing importance of books and education. The rhyming text carries readers along and the illustrations seem lit up from within. A book that deserves a wide audience and one that will start both dreams and discussions. For similar books take a look at Girl Power - Inspiring and Informative Books with a Feminist Edge
Radiating warmth through words and pictures as it lays bare wonders of the world, this extended picture book was inspired by the author’s meetings with children from around the globe as a supporter of UNICEF and Save the Children. Framed as a letter to interplanetary guests (“Dear visitor from Outer Space, if you come to Earth, here’s what you need to know”), it takes in the big and the small with huge heart and wisdom. The whole of life is here, from recognising and celebrating human difference (“Each of us is different. But all of us are amazing. And, together, we share one beautiful planet”), to portraying the animals of the sea, land and air that grace Earth. It also shows how we communicate through words, signs, music and art, and gently points out that while we sometimes hurt each other, “it’s better when we help each other.” And the mysteries of existence are touched on too - “There are lots of things we don’t know. We don’t know where we were before we were born, or where we go when we die. But right this minute we are here together on this beautiful planet.” What a wonderful gift-to-treasure this will make - a delight to read aloud and share thoughts about.
How to Earn It, Save It, Spend It, Grow It, Give It | Given that we are looking down the barrel of the worst recession since records began, this book could not be more topical, or of more interest to young people and will no doubt teach adults, like me, a thing or two (about Bitcoin for example!). The author tells us she loves to take big ideas and make them accessible and she has fulfilled that ambition with flying colours and created a book that should be in every school as an invaluable tool for teaching financial literacy. There have been many books which have covered the history and origins of money, but nothing which has dealt so clearly with the ‘why it matters’ and encouraged us to think about needs versus wants, the concept of value and, even more importantly, why it matters how you use your money and how you can use it to do good. When you have successfully grown your money it also explains why you should give some of it away. Brilliantly illustrated and designed with ‘in a nutshell’ sections and quizzes, real life stories and a lively, witty and accessible style that explains, but never patronises and uses examples that make sense in a children’s world. So, for example, when you understand the ‘superhero sweetie’ of compound interest, you will never make the common error of picking a ‘1 million today’ prize instead of ‘1p which doubles every day’ (making 5.3 million in just 30 days) Perfectly pitched yet sophisticated and challenging enough to intrigue teens as well as tweens, this is a superb information text that I cannot recommend highly enough.
August 2020 Book of the Month | “Don’t take things for granted – challenge everything. That means challenging big business and your governments and, most of all, challenging yourself to act now and save the planet,” so writes activist author Blue Sandford, the seventeen-year-old founding member of Extinction Rebellion Youth London, in her inspiring call-to-action introduction to Challenge Everything. The only official handbook from Extinction Rebellion, this youth-driven, youth-oriented manifesto speaks loud and clear to the legions of young people who feel disenchanted with world leaders, and angry at the greed of big business dictating the downward direction of the world, all enhanced by strikingly designed slogans and illustrations. At the book’s heart is the powerful message that, “you are responsible for your own actions.” For example, “every time you take an uber, go on holiday on a plane, buy new trainers, even turn on the lights and heating, you’re contributing to climate and ecological collapse, you’re indirectly destroying rainforests and wildernesses.” This is typical of the book’s punch-packing perspective. Above all else, the author seeks to empower her readers with a change of mindset, one that challenges all aspects of the status quo, with the ultimate aim of saving the planet. Covering everything from the destructive effects of flying and the fast fashion industry, to the importance of re-wilding and reconnecting with nature, this potently persuasive manifesto also has a powerful practical emphasis, with details on the forms challenges might take, such as boycotting, non-violent direct action, campaigning and government lobbying. For more books on an eco theme try our Green Reads.
I am becoming very fond of Justine Avery's eclectic collection of books. She has the ability to consider issues relevant to children and young people that many adults would fail to recognise. This bright and colourful little book almost acts as a little aide-memoire reminding us that when we encounter problems, we need to trust in our abilities, thoughts and ideas and 'think outside the box'. The artwork is attractive and feels new and fresh and the text is professionally constructed. A delightful addition to an already pleasing series. Val Rowe, A LoveReading4Kids Ambassador
An inspirational history of the LGBTQ+ movement | With activist and founder of LGBT History Month and Schools OUT UK, Susan Sanders, as consultant, you can be confident that the information in this essential resource is reliable as well as being engaging and highly readable. The foreword by celebrity actor Layton Williams and the Why I Have Pride vignettes interspersed throughout the book, featuring young people from across the whole spectrum of the LBGTQ+ community, will ensure a high level of interest from young people and provide empowering messages for them to read. Starting from the evidence of acceptance in ancient history through the growth of persecution as Christianity flourishes in Europe, the brutality of the Inquisition, the recurrence of the death penalty for homosexuality around the world and the disaster of the Aids epidemic, this book does not hide the darker side of the history of the LGBTQ+ movement, but the emphasis is very much on the brave people who took on the fight against discrimination, prejudice and injustice. So, although agonising setbacks occurred, the overall progress has been upwards and the overall impact of the book is to inspire and celebrate. Helped, no doubt, by the rainbow coloured cover and vibrant illustrations. The timeline of milestones, comprehensive index and glossary and guide to sources of further information add value as a reference tool, but this is very much a book that will be read with pleasure and I hope with pride!
July 2020 Non-Fiction Book of the Month | In this important new resource, author Cerrie Burnell has put together a fascinating collection of inspiring stories. As she says in her introduction when she was growing up as a child born with just one hand “there just weren’t enough books with a disabled protagonist” and “Everyone deserves to see someone like them in a story and achieving something great” Her own achievements are themselves inspirational and she has long been a disability rights campaigner as well as much loved CBeebies presenter and children’s author and so the whole book is infused with authenticity and passion. A double page spread for each of the 34 role models and two special sections on mental health and “invisible disabilities” are all evocatively illustrated by comic artist and graphic designer, Lauren Baldo capturing the time and spirit of the featured individual and giving real context to the highly readable and fascinating life stories. Starting in 1770 with Beethoven and finishing in 2001 with the birth of black, transgender disabled model superstar Aaron Philip, the life stories are commendably international and wide ranging, challenging our preconceived ideas of what is possible. From the familiar Helen Keller and Stevie Wonder to the less well known like break dancer Redouan Ait Chit, mountaineer Arunima Sinha, lawyer Catalina Devandas to celebrities like Lady Gaga,whose disability was a complete surprise to me, these stories will open eyes and minds. A comprehensive glossary and helpful discussion of language choices around disability and representation throughout add even more usefulness to this essential and attractive resource.
June 2020 Debut of the Month | This book takes a poetic look at what it means to be alive. Nuto is a debut author – a teacher in Tasmania, who asks some of the big questions about who we all are, about friendship and our place in the universe. It’s the sort of book that will be a bouncing off point for lots of discussions – but is presented in an accessible and colourful format. Charlotte Ager’s naïve style of illustration means it will appeal across the very young and the not so young. The bold illustrations offer colour and shade in big pictures. Starting with the big questions – that we are made of the stuff of stars, and that we are tiny in comparison to the universe, it goes on to show we have the means to explore, to be both positive and negative. It shows that though we are a small short-lived speck we have the ability to change the world for the better. There are some glorious illustrations – full of colour, detail and action, as well as others that are more contemplative. A good book to have in your classroom!
The celebrated French author and illustrator has put together a brilliant collection of infographics that are designed to make children think about the world in a new way. Each colourful and distinctive page shows something that happens in our world every second. Every fact quoted is backed up by an impressive list of up to date sources at the end of the book. This introduces in an accessible way for young children the concept of statistics and what can be gained by collecting and analysing data. For example, the presentation on opposing pages of the £700 invested in humanitarian aid and the £46,760 spent on arms and weapons makes us all stop and think. However ,in the current circumstances that the world finds itself I,n there is another way in which the book can be of value, as the whole discussion of “ do you think this is still happening every second?” will inevitably occur. The stark 2 deaths every second may very sadly be a larger number and the 600,000 kilometres travelled by car every second may well be considerably smaller. Other things will not be changed. The fascinating 4,500 Olympic sized swimming pools of water evaporating from the oceans every second (and we are also told that an Olympic sized pool holds 3,000,000 litres of water) and the 5,235 kilograms of sand, carried by the wind that leave the Sahara desert. Every page could be the basis of a very useful lesson in a different curricular area. Beautifully produced, this unusual book will really earn its keep in the classroom.
Longlisted for the UKLA Book Awards 2021 | A picture-book biography of celebrated poet Gwendolyn Brooks, the first Black person to win the Pulitzer Prize Gwendolyn Brooks (1917-2000) is known for her poems about real life. She wrote about love, loneliness, family, and poverty-showing readers how just about anything could become a beautiful poem.
Dynamic and visually appealing, this book inspires young people to think, not only about the planet and the impact that humanity is having upon it, but also about the ways in which we treat each other. Covering a wide range of the sort of issues that young people are likely to be most concerned about, such as climate change, pollution, animal welfare, gender equality, social justice, homelessness and hunger. Each graphically striking double spread introduces a topic and the issues of concern in a lively and accessible way. Then it introduces the young activists that are making a difference around the world. Greta Thunberg is obviously there in several sections, but over 80 young change-makers from all around the globe are featured. Then there are the pages which suggest ways in which the reader can get involved right now. How they can change their own behaviour and how they can impact upon their home and school. It even has ideas for potential eco-businesses. At the end of the book there is a really comprehensive listing of where to find these featured activists as well as organisations, books, media and websites. There is also very welcome advice on maintaining your own safety and wellbeing – the “Don’t feed the trolls” page of advice for example. A comprehensive index and glossary of terms completes this no-nonsense, non-patronising call to arms. Full of useful information and fascinating life stories this will undoubtedly be regularly picked up by the young readers it is aimed at.
Longlisted for the UKLA Book Awards 2021 | Mythical monsters have always represented humanity's greatest fears and the environmental monsters in Planet SOS are no different. In all, 22 monsters feature in Planet SOS and each is paired with the mythological beast it is based on. And each monster is accompanied by a Monster Card outlining the big, bad beast's weaknesses and how to use each one to your advantage.