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December 2019 YA Debut of the Month | This compelling, nuanced tale is set in the town of Lucille in a future society where evil, the ‘monsters’, have been eliminated in an epic struggle by the ‘angels’ to create a better world for their children to grow up in. Jam, our selectively-nonverbal, black, trans heroine, is one of those children. When she accidentally spills her blood onto her mother’s painting, a creature called Pet emerges. Looking like a monster but here to hunt a monster preying on the family of her best friend, a boy named Redemption. But the identities of the victim and the predator are still unknown and Jam and Redemption have to face what their society fails to acknowledge: that monsters exist and hide in plain sight- that evil still resides in humanity. One of the huge strengths of this book is that Jam’s trans status is not there to score diversity points. The story does not centre around gender identity, but also does not ignore the impact upon the character and plot in a very natural, unforced way. Dialogue is used extremely creatively too. Emezi Jam speaks aloud in quotation marks and sign language is indicated with italics and when Jam and Pet speak telepathically, Emezi uses no punctuation marks whatsoever. On top of that, dialects, phrases, and cultural traditions from across African American communities appear throughout, giving a real flavour and authenticity to the narrative. Emezi has spoken of her inspiration being teenagers discomforted by the monsters in plain sight in our current society. This is a thought-provoking reading experience that could inspire valuable discussion in a lot of classroom contexts.
Children’s mental health and wellbeing are a high priority for all schools and parents. This wonderfully reassuring book is from the award-winning Rachel Bright, teamed with illustrator Chris Chatterton who has created the most adorable little dinosaur: The Worrysaurus. Parents will immediately recognise the behaviour of a natural worrier - the child that likes to plan ahead and to have thought of everything before setting out to enjoy a lovely picnic. But it is not long before the overthinking gets out of control and a suggestion from a similarly nervous lizard feeds his anxieties just as children can do to each other. But Worrysaurus has a very helpful strategy in place and he remembers his mother’s advice. He has a tin of precious things in his bag and, going through them one by one, they give him the strength to set the butterfly of worry free. Even tiny children know all about the feeling of butterflies in the tummy so this is universally relatable. He shares a lovely picnic with the anxious lizard and they learn to live in the moment instead of worrying about what might happen. While this can simply be read as an enjoyable rhyming story, it will be most useful to prompt discussion and sharing. It will work well for this purpose with children in Key Stage One and Two making it a very useful purchase indeed.
August 2019 Book of the Month | Nicola Davies celebrates the forthcoming 30th anniversary of the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child in this beautifully illustrated picture book. Using the metaphor of each child being a song, she explores some of the 54 rights it sets out, from the right to education, to freedom of thought and expression, to the rights of child refugees. Short, lyrical sentences of text will start discussion and conversation and Marc Martin’s rich water-colour illustrations, whether of children, scenes or vegetation, add movement and drama. A book to inspire children to think about the world and their place within it.
What does it mean for people to have to leave their homes, and what happens when they seek entry to another country? This book explores the history of refugees and migration around the world and the effects on people of never-ending war and conflict. It compares the effects on society of diversity and interculturalism with historical attempts to create a racially 'pure' culture. It takes an international perspective, and offers a range of views from people who have personal experience of migration, including the campaigners Meltem Avcil and Muzoon Almellehan, the comedian and actor Omid Djalili and the poet Benjamin Zephaniah. Aimed at young people aged 10 and upwards, the book encourages readers to think for themselves about the issues involved. There is also a role-play activity asking readers to imagine themselves in the situation of having to decide whether to leave their homes and seek refuge in a new country.
Sometimes life can be pretty amazing. But other times it feels like: A. Your heart and stomach have been steamrolled into a grisly organ pancake B. You are being put through an emotional spiralizer that creates human courgetti C. Both of the above. You're a courgetti pancake. No, Instagram filters won't make it look any better. And, yes, we all feel this way. An honest, thoughtful and hilarious survival guide for young people by social media sensation, Lex Croucher. Learn that you can face whatever today throws at you, because it has terrible aim anyway. And realise that only you scrutinise your flaws - seriously, no one else is paying attention, there's far too much interesting stuff on Netflix. A must-read for anyone who wants to embrace their actual, real, unedited life. Just always remember ... YOU'RE CRUSHING IT. Lex Croucher's frank and candid text is THE survival guide to help you make it through the crazy, topsy-turvy, whirlwind ride we call life. Brace yourself! Topics include: family and friends, body confidence, technology and social media, relationships, mental health, success and more.
Longlisted for the UKLA Book Awards 2020 | March 2019 YA Debut of the Month | Written by the founder of Everyday Sexism, and based on real-life experiences, double-standard “slut shaming” and sexual degradation are here exposed with vital urgency, and interwoven with the gripping story of a medieval woman whose abuse at the hands of a misogynistic society has present-day parallels. Fifteen-year-old Anna and her mum have moved hundreds of miles so she can escape the sexist bullying she was subjected to at her last school. But as Anna tries to make a fresh start, her past rears its head and continues to haunt her. While suffering torrents of abuse from her peers, Anna immerses herself in a history project that draws her into the tragic life of Maggie, an unmarried young woman from the 17th century. In juxtaposing Maggie and Anna’s experiences, the author lays bare an unbroken thread of misogyny from the Middle Ages to today’s culture of “revenge porn” and sexual shaming. Centuries on from scold’s bridles and burnings at the stake, women are still blamed and punished for the brutal behaviour of men. But Anna finds strength in her friendships with Alisha, Cat and Robin, and her connection with Maggie makes this a potent page-turner that will speak to a generation. As the author states in her afterword, “You are not alone, you are not to blame, and you deserve to feel better”. Or, in Anna’s words, “We are the granddaughters of the witches you burned. And we’re not putting up with it any more.”
October 2019 Book of the Month | Kate Milner, winner of the 2018 Klaus Flugge Award for most promising newcomer to children’s book illustration has certainly lived up to her laurels with this delicate and subtle picturebook, which packs a real emotional and political punch. It is a cause of great shame to many, in this country and in the 21st century, that more children than ever are living in poverty and that there has been a huge expansion in the use of foodbanks. Mum works really hard and watches every penny, but today is a no money day. Her little girl, who tells the story, takes great pleasure in life from the simple, free activities they share- visits to the library and dressing up in the charity shops. Unlike her humiliated Mum, she loves the visits to the food bank for the drink and biscuits and the kind ladies to talk to. On the way home they play the maybe one day game- dreaming of pets and washing machines and new warm clothes. They go to bed and “because of kind people our tummies are full”. Nothing is laboured in text or image- the colours are subdued but still there. The despair and tiredness of the mother is evident in every expression and nuance of body language, but so is the warmth and love between them and so is the irrepressible spirit of a child who knows they are loved even if as the pictures subtly show us, she is clearly malnourished. This is a book which can be used with a very wide range of children and will encourage empathy and discussion of a very current and appalling crisis in our society.
Longlisted for the UKLA Book Awards 2020 | Love is a wonderful thing, and it doesn't have conditions in this novel about sister and brother Lenny and Davy as they deal with the fact that Davy is very different from everyone else around him. Davy is growing. And growing and growing. He is diagnosed with a rare form of gigantism. But he and Lenny are also trying to figure out where their father went, if they have a grandmother, what is going to be in the next issue of the encyclopaedia that is heading their way in the post and which letter is their favourite, as each one opens up the world to the siblings just a bit more. In this exquisite book about love and loss and caring for your family, Karen Foxlee has created a heart-rending and hopeful book that delights and surprises. W is for Wonderful, and that is Lenny's Book of Everything. Unforgettably wonderful.
Winner of the Klaus Flugge Prize 2019 | Shortlisted for the CILIP Kate Greenaway Medal 2019 | Already shortlisted for the Kate Greenaway Medal, Julian is a Mermaid is an outstanding picture book, surely destined to become a classic. Julian is out with Nana when he notices three women dressed as mermaids. In his heart of hearts – we see it described over three fabulous wordless spreads – Julian knows he is a mermaid too and while Nana takes a bath he sets out to transform himself into one. Nana’s response is life-affirming and the two head out to join the mermaid party. The illustrations dazzle and as a celebration of individuality, the imagination, freedom and love, it can’t be beaten. The Klaus Flugge judges said: it reminded me of Sendak, it’s hard to believe it’s a debut; the illustrations say things that words would struggle to express; delivers an important message without feeling didactic.
Longlisted for the UKLA Book Awards 2020 | | Pitch perfect characterisation in a powerful story that shows how talent and support can turn a life around. This first book in the four part Run series is a world class middle grade story with all the witty tenderness of Louis Sachar and a whole lot of heart, humour and edge-of-your-seat action. Castle Cranshaw (better known as Ghost) discovered his talent for running the night he and his mom fled his violent dad. “Running isn’t anything I ever had to practice. It’s just something I knew how to do”, he explains. Hassled at school for his Mom-made haircuts, and constantly trying to avoid “altercations” that wind up making his school file bulge, Ghost’s life takes an upward turn when he spontaneously races a budding elite sprinter at a training session and wins. The coach, a former Olympic gold medalist, immediately invites him to join the team and they form a heart-melting bond fuelled by friendly sparring. Coach is exactly the mentor Ghost and his diverse bunch of talented teammates need. Ghost’s voice is endearingly authentic, honest and funny - pitch-perfect for his age and the novel’s readership. His “No! Don’t do it!” decisions and ensuing scrapes are evoked with intensity and humour (just wait for the “silver bullet” incident). Truly I cannot wait to spend more time in the company of Coach, Ghost and his teammates, each of whom will feature in future books in the series.
Smart, incisive, brimming with the breath of human experience and written with engaging age-appropriate verve, this clever concept (“a tale told in ten blocks”) is perfectly executed. For the chorus of kids whose lives play out on these impeccably-written pages, the walk home from school represents a rare time of freedom; a period of limbo between being under the watchful eyes of teachers and parents. Unsupervised, the kids reveal their true selves, most of them dealing with hidden heartache and anxieties alongside goofing around, self-reflecting and navigating their way through Middle School. As always with Jason Reynolds, the characterisation is ingeniously vivid, with deep insights expressed through, for example, the different ways kids open their lockers. Many of the stories are intensely poignant, such as that of the Low Cuts crew whose bad behaviour is fuelled by a desperate love for their sick parents. The moment it turns out that Bit the hustler is a “son who was scared. A son who loved his mum” is shatteringly powerful. There’s much humour too, such as the laugh-out-loud scene in which smelly Gregory is slathered in VaporRub by friends seeking to beautify him before he visits a girl he’s keen on. Bittersweet, hard-hitting and powerfully perceptive, these pitch-perfect reader-centric stories shine a light on oft-overlooked lives and ring with empathy and authenticity.