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Personal, Social, Health and Economic (PSHE) focuses on developing the knowledge, skills and attributes to keep children and young people healthy and safe and to prepare them for life and work. The books in this section cover a range of PSHE topics including bullying, disability, family issues and racism. There are both fiction and non-fiction titles and cover age ranges from Toddler to Older Teen.
April 2021 Book of the Month | Ten-year-old Billie Upton Green opens up her doodle diary to readers, and what a treat it proves: a fabulously lively and idiosyncratic record of an eventful couple of weeks in her life. When a new girl joins her class, Billie is determined to make her feel welcome, even though Janey seems a bit of a show-off. She’s disconcerted that Janey doesn’t know what it means to be adopted, like Billie, or that you can have two mums, also like Billie. It gets harder to like Janey though when it appears she’s stealing Billie’s best friend, Layla. This also seems, to Billie, to put Janey in the frame for a sudden spate of thefts at their school, but the culprit is someone else altogether and by the end of the book, Billie, Layla and Janey are firm friends, the three of them performing a special dance at Billie’s mums’ wedding. Readers will love Billie’s adventures, and her funny, doodle-filled way of sharing them, as much as they love the Dork Diaries or Wimpy Kid stories, and it’s great too to see such a warm celebration of diverse family life.
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.
We are more used to seeing migration from the point of view of the struggle for acceptance in a new place, but this gorgeous book refreshingly celebrates the homeland where Anita lives and where she is the brave and bold Princesa, loved by all. The atmospheric illustrations are suffused with the warmth and colour of the Dominican Republic and you get a real sense of customs, community and family (helped by the Spanish terms sprinkled through the text). It becomes apparent that the family is about to embark on a new, more materially comfortable life in another country and the planes that will take them there are the dragons of Anita’s imagination. They are definitely seen as a threat and the colour palette becomes a more ominous grey as the fearful day approaches and she must leave her beloved island kingdom and her Abuela, her grandmother. Her nerve collapses entirely on the tarmac before boarding, but comforted by her family she promises herself that she will return to her island “with mango-sweet kisses; black stormy nights; glassy, blue waves; spicy, hot heat; and sandy, snug hugs”. This is a valuable insight to share in the first world classroom where the perspective is normally one of immigrants coming to “a better place”. This recognises and acknowledges that the reality is very different. Highly recommended.
This companion to Beautiful Broken Things is a vital, powerful portrayal of the complexities of mental health, friendship and love. Now a legal adult, Suzanne, the self-declared “queen of fresh starts”, leaves her foster parents, acutely aware that “this time, I’m on my own”. She’s moving back to Brighton, the only place she’s ever felt a sense of belonging. “I’m overdue some goodness”, Suzanne muses as she moves into a basic bedsit, with Auntie Sarah and dear friends Rosie and Caddy on hand to help her settle in. But Rosie and Caddy soon head off to their respective universities, leaving Suzanne feeling abandoned. Lonely and struggling to make ends meet on the wages from her café job, she forms a friendship with her 79 year-old neighbour, a storyline that swells with raw, life-affirming beauty. Alongside this, painful mental health setbacks are triggered, and further rollercoaster rides come courtesy of a confusing, overwhelming romance with musician Matt. Honest, authentic, moving and entertaining, this all-consuming story is sensitive and wise on the complexities of growing up, and offers a guiding hand to young adults facing mental health struggles.
Winner of the Wainwright Prize for UK Nature Writing 2020 | Winner of the Books Are My Bag Readers Awards for Non-Fiction | Shortlisted for Waterstones Book of the Year 2020 | Longlisted for the Baillie Gifford Prize 2020 | Diary of a Young Naturalist recounts a year in the life of an autistic and highly gifted 15 year old, struggling with school, bullies, moving house and fearing the decline of the natural world whilst rejoicing in it. Dara McAnulty is clearly an extraordinary person and a beautiful and mature writer. His descriptions of his adventures in nature are inspiring for children, but also sure to brighten the souls of many an adult too. The intensity with which nature presents itself to the author is overwhelming, and his ability to share this with the reader is enthralling. It’s a rollercoaster ride being in the head of this young man, but the book has the magic to open our eyes and ears to what beauty is around us each and every day - if only we looked! McAnulty's knowledge of wildlife and nature is simply extraordinary. His autism is a burden but also a super-power, providing him with piercing insight to a world that simply cannot be ignored with all its truth, tragedy and hope pouring out of every hedgerow, pond and dry stone wall. This is a diary which highlights our essential connection with the natural world, the landscape and our history embedded within it - but more importantly, it is also about our futures. Dara McAnulty is on a mission, and if the quality of this book is anything to go by, he will have a huge impact. For many children, this book will be the beginning of a wondrous journey. ~ Greg Hackett Greg Hackett is the Founder & Director of the London Mountain Film Festival
Sixteen-year-old Steffi has been selectively mute since she was five. No-one really knows why, least of all her, but teenage readers will recognise the different pressures that she feels so acutely. Her mutism heightens her loneliness, and the loss of her much-loved step-brother in an accident has added terribly to her isolation. We meet her as she’s starting sixth form, set on reaching university, the pressure to speak greater than it’s ever been. Things change when Steffi meets Rhys, who is deaf. Steffi can sign and as their relationship grows we realise that real communication takes many forms. This is very much a story of two individuals but it will resonate with readers, who will understand Steffi’s problems, and be reassured by its message that you don’t have to be noisy to have lots to say, or to be heard. Readers will also enjoy Holly Bourne’s excellent Spinster Club books, or the Zelah Green books by Vanessa Curtis. Find more books with Positive Images of Disability.
This book has won several awards in the US, for tackling a difficult and contentious topic. Though to some extent I feel the book rather misses its mark – although the format and the pictures are aimed at toddlers, this is very much a book for carers, teachers and youth leaders to use to open discussions about race. The book simply gives 9 steps to becoming antiracist, all illustrated with big bold, colourful pictures, but in language that is most definitely going to need a mediator for a small child to understand. I was disappointed by the lack of empathy exhibited, with no vocalising of love and respect for everyone, regardless of race. The prompts at the end of the book for discussion and further exploration are very useful and could be the basis of many critical discussions in schools and other appropriate places. The author does acknowledge a great deal of the language used is difficult and provides a good glossary of the main terms used – always a benefit when dealing with terms that could be misinterpreted.
The no-nonsense guide to being trans and/or non-binary for teens | What’s the T? is street talk for ‘tell me the truth’ and this is exactly what Juno Dawson sets out to do. This Book is Gay by the same author became a staple purchase for school libraries and this new title absolutely deserves the same treatment and indeed should be purchased for the staff shelf too. This reader is paranoid about the correct language and terminology and I feel far more confident in my understanding now. The excellent glossary is worth the purchase price alone. Although it sets out to answer all the possible questions that anyone feeling body dysmorphia or anybody supporting a friend or family member with similar anxieties, could come up with, my strongest impression was one of moral rectitude. Without being strident or patronising and in her warm, witty and friendly way, the author makes very clear the right of every human being to define themselves and to be able to live their lives without fear. Many misconceptions (often generated by ill-informed or blatantly hateful messages in mainstream and social media) are firmly laid to rest. Notably what is and is not actually possible in terms of treatment for young people under 18. The information and advice given does not sugar coat anything. Nobody could be left in any doubt of the difficulties and the time that it would take to make any sort of transition, nor that there is one simple answer or one simple journey. The fascinating look at the history of transgender in different cultures and the witness statements from trans and non-binary people across the globe, give those of us in our cisgender privilege a salutary wake-up call, which is why this book has value for any sociology, politics or philosophy students too. An essential purchase for secondary schools and a recommended addition to any young person's bookshelf. For more books visit our LGBTQI Literature Collection.
Neal Shusterman’s incisive, inventive Game Changer raises the bar for speculative YA fiction as it confronts privilege, racism, sexism, homophobia and the devastating consequences of not speaking out head-on. It’s also an absolute page-turner, alive with relatable characters and authentic young adult voices. “There are choices we make, choices that are made for us, and things we ignore long enough until all choices have fallen away. I’ve been plenty guilty of ignoring stuff I don’t want to deal with.” This quote from protagonist Ash sums up the dominant sentiment underpinning this powerful novel. He’s a High Schooler with a diverse friendship group, which, at one time, he believed “checked my box of social responsibility. Like there was nothing more for me to do than have some brown at the table.” In Ash’s case that’s his Black best friend and team-mate Leo. A talented American footballer, Ash loves “the way it felt to smash through an offensive line”. Then, after one such smash, he finds himself knocked into a changed reality. At first, the shift in Ash’s universe is barely perceptible, but with each game, with each smash, he’s knocked into increasingly changed parallel worlds that provide jaw-dropping perspectives on our own. At one point he’s shifted into a shocking segregated reality in which all his teammates are white. Shusterman also shines a glaring light on coercively controlling relationships, homophobia and how “we vilify the difference in others” and “glorify the differences in ourselves.” Tension builds brilliantly as Ash works to return to his world with renewed insights, with the parallel world set-up serving as a smart allegory for us all to do better - to make choices that will make the world a fairer place. Through Ash readers are called to question their own actions - and inaction - such as when he admits that “Sometimes I would rationalize the intolerance of friends and look the other way. You know how a friend says a joke that maybe shouldn’t have been said? Rather than calling them out on it, you let it go. Pretend it doesn’t matter.” This gripping ground-breaker exposes the inexcusable upshots of looking the other way.
From the author of the moving, ground-breaking Nothing Ever Happens Here, Sarah Hagger-Holt’s Proud of Me offers children from LBGT families a vital chance to see their lives represented, while also delivering an empathy-inspiring read with universal messages of respect and supporting your peers. Siblings Becky and Josh are part of a loving family of “two mums, two kids – and nothing can break us apart.” They were born eight days apart, but Becky finds it easier to say they’re twins because “it saves a whole lot of explaining” (they were fathered by the same anonymous donor, with Josh birthed by Mum and Becky birthed by Ima - Hebrew for ‘mum’). While photography-mad Becky spends a lot of time with her adorable best friend Archie, who came out in Year Eight, and Carli, the new American girl at school who’s come into her life like a rainbow of light and life, Josh is desperate to know who his dad is. In fact, he becomes so fixed on finding out that he joins an online DC (donor conceived) community and secretly takes an investigative road-trip on the day of Mum’s big fiftieth birthday party celebrations. At the same time, Becky is navigating big questions around accepting who she is, and they’re both deeply involved in organising a school Pride event, both determined to make their mums proud, both determined to overcome the likes of Carli’s mother who thinks the group is “immoral and corrupting and it shouldn’t be happening in school.” Becky and Josh’s dual narratives are an engaging, authentic delight, and this child-centred story is at once uplifting, entertaining and empowering.
From the author of Just Another Lie, Eve Ainsworth’s Magpie is an honest, poignant story of a family who flee a mother’s abusive partner, all told through the eyes of Alice, a heroine whose experiences and outlook touch the heart and soul. Her wish “to be able to fly… to be truly free” and “never feel trapped again” will have readers truly rooting for her from tense opening to hopeful conclusion. New home, new school, new start - all good. But old fears resurface when Alice spots a hooded figure skulking near her new house and she’s terrified her mum’s abusive partner, Ross, has tracked them down. This was supposed to be them embarking on a new life, away from his violent, manipulative behaviour, away from her mum looking “defeated, like a mouse that had just been caught by a cat.” Despite Alice’s efforts to shrug off her apprehension, the fear lingers and she’s worried Mum has done what she always ends up doing - giving in to Ross. At least she has a couple of great friends for support, though - football ace Alfie and arty Ben. They make an unlikely bunch (as the best friendship groups often do), but they’re close as anything, and will do anything for each other. Written with clarity and heart, I was moved and gripped as Alice discovers the truth of the skulking stranger, all the while navigating the nasty girls at school who mock her unfashionable clothes, worrying about Mum, and feeling the thrill of first love and new connections.
‘Dream big, little one’ is the message in this beautiful picture book, and it offers so many dreams to follow. They are wild, liberating and oh, so inspiring, invitations to be a star-gazer, trail-blazer; a fierce freedom-leader, a bold self-believer; a keeper of kindness and champion of change. The illustrations – vibrant and lively in a rich, warm palette – show young girls exploring the world and vividly express the hopes and joy contained in the text. Striking to look at and exhilarating to read aloud, this is very special and a lovely book to give to any little girl.
Interest Age 8+ Reading Age 8 | Gill Lewis is contemporary children’s literature’s nature writer par excellence, telling moving stories of human encounters with wild animals that powerfully connect readers with the natural world. Swan Song tells the story of Dylan, expelled from his school and struggling with depression until he moves with his mother to her family home in a tiny Welsh village. In the peace and quiet of days on his grandfather’s boat, Dylan begins to find himself again, but it is the discovery of an injured Whooper swan that is life-saving, and shown to be literally so. Written for dyslexia specialist Barrington Stoke, this short novel will be accessible to all readers and its message of the healing power of nature and community more important now than it’s ever been. The LoveReading LitFest invited Gill Lewis to the festival to talk about Swan Song, and green reads for kids with fellow author Konnie Huq. You can view the event by subscribing to the LitFest programme for as little as £6 per month - or you can pay per view. For just £2, go, see them in conversation with Paul Blezard, you won't be disappointed. Check out a preview of the event here
February 2021 Book of the Month | Renée Watson is one of my favourite contemporary YA writers and her latest novel, Love is a Revolution, embodies everything that makes her stories shine - it’s honest, relatable, driven by an inspiring Black girl, and sparkles with a self-empowerment vibe. Nala’s summer plans are sent reeling when she goes to an open mic night for her “cousin-sister-friend” Imani’s birthday, an event organised by the Harlem Inspire community project Imani is heavily involved with. Here Nala fall head-over-heels for committed activist Tye and finds herself telling little white lies to impress him - that she’s vegan, that she’s running a big project at her Jamaican Grandma’s Senior Living residence. Talking of Grandma, I especially loved the book’s beautiful portrayal of inter-generational relationships - the shared wisdom, the compassion and kindness, the sense of family and community, and Nala’s body positive exuberance is uplifting too. Her disorientation and self-doubt derive from elsewhere, like not knowing what she wants to do with her life, and feeling she’s not good enough, not quite worthy of Tye’s love. Though fireworks explode when Nala’s fibs are found out, after taking Grandma’s advice on-board to the empowering soundtrack of her favourite musician, she discovers that self-love and self-care are forms of revolution - they’re her route to transformative self-acceptance through embracing who she really is.
It’s time for the school play and two little people have their hearts set on starring roles. Little rabbit Olivia and young rhino Sam are both practising day and night and, sure enough, they get the best parts in ‘The Princess, the Knight and the Dragon’. Unfortunately, neither is happy. Olivia wanted to be the knight, not the princess, and playing the knight means that Sam won’t get to do any dancing. Fortunately, these two young performers are smart enough to work out ways to adapt their roles to suit their talents. Olivia and Sam are very endearing characters and their determination to be true to themselves will have all audiences applauding. A thoroughly entertaining picture book that delivers an important and empowering message.
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