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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.
September 2020 Book of the Month | Jeremy is a worrier. We all know one, perhaps we even are one. He imagines risk everywhere, in burnt toast, spotty bananas, squirrels, and especially the wind. His friend Maggie has a much more laid-back approach, “What’s the worst that can happen?” is her motto. Well, one day, Jeremy gets to find out. Of course, in Pamela Butchart’s deliciously zany but reassuring story, the worst turns out to be a wonderful adventure. It’s a story that will make even the most resolute worrier unwind and one that will work its magic on the Maggies of this world too. Kate Hindley’s illustrations are typically expressive, particularly the three wordless spreads that tell the tale of Jeremy’s experience of ‘the worst’. A wonderfully clever and entertaining picture book with a very wide appeal. The overly-anxious will also enjoy Melanie Watt’s Scaredy Squirrel series, which is equally comic. You can find more books on this theme in our Anxiety & Wellbeing collection.
September 2020 Book of the Month | This sparkling adventure melds life as a young refugee with literary lore. The warm magic of Omar’s Lilliputian sojourn will captivate young readers, while his experience as a refugee will surely inspire compassion and empathy - deeply vital for our times. Known as Tiny in his rural village, Omar’s life is overturned when war breaks out and an air strike kills his dad and many friends. When his sister goes missing, Omar and his mum move to a refugee camp. But it’s not long before Mum decides it would be safer to join a group of sea-bound refugees. They walk for a year and reach the coast, but Omar’s mum only has enough money to pay for one passage. So, armed only with the address of his Uncle Said in England, Omar boards the overcrowded boat. When it sinks, he wakes to find himself on an island populated by tiny people. The warm welcome of the Lilliputians serves as a powerful allegory. They “spoke with their hearts” and make Omar feel like he belongs as he learns their language, their history, their culture. But worried his mum might be waiting for him in England, Omar sets off again, with hope in his heart and special companions aboard his new boat. Shot-through with a powerful message about offering help and hope to those in need, this is classic Morpurgo, with wonderfully warm illustrations by Michael Foreman. Read more about Michael Morpurgo, our Guest Editor for September 2020, here.
Children have been through a lot this year and this lovely book, bursting with hope and reasons to look forward, provides the comfort and reassurance they’ve been needing, plus a sense of the joy that’s been missing for too long. It stars a young sister and brother, plus their sometimes frazzled parents, and describes the creation of a rainbow image for their window. Painting the rainbow brings back good memories as well as some sad ones, but ultimately reminds them of the really important things in life – family and friends – and that “we’ll still have each other/when this rainstorm ends!” Michelle Robinson’s rhyme is on the beat throughout, seamlessly mixing realism, understanding and optimism, while Emily Hamilton’s illustrations have a sense of companionship and energy that makes everything feel better. A great book to read and to look at, and a really useful and important one to share with children.
Robert Starling’s little dragon Fergal has lots of fans and no wonder. His adventures are wonderfully accurate representation of everyday family life and will be recognisable to every toddler and parent. In this story, Fergal has become a big brother but the arrival of baby Fern is making him anxious, unsettled and angry. Things come to a head when a trip he’s been looking forward to has to be cancelled. Fortunately, Dad encourages Fergal to talk about how he’s been feeling and after that everything gets better. There’s a very useful message here and as ever Starling delivers it with charm, humour and sensitivity. This is another excellent book to share and absolutely essential if you’ve got a toddler and new baby.
September 2020 Book of the Month | Less than one year ago, until November 2019 in fact, SARS-CoV-2 coronavirus hadn’t infected a single person and was completely unknown to nearly all of us. Now it has changed our whole world, yet most of us still have only a hazy idea of what viruses are, which is where this brilliant little book comes in. The Virus tells you everything there is to know about viruses including of course COVID-19. It explains what viruses are, what they look like and do, why they are so successful at making us ill, what we can do to combat them, and why some of them actually help us. If this sounds a bit technical or heavy going, think again: it’s fascinating stuff and presented in a way that makes it really easy to read and understand. The story of coronavirus as told here is an adventure, full of heroes and villains, facts and figures that will stop you in your tracks, and some good jokes too. I can’t think of a more interesting or relevant book for our times – everyone needs to read this! If you're interested in science you can find many similar titles in our Best Non-Fiction collection.
A Julia Eccleshare Pick of the Month September 2020 | Cleverly blending an upbeat story of a girl who loves Superman comics and is determined to be a super sleuth in the style of Lois Lane and a contemporary story of a child being trafficked and held in slavery, The Invisible Boy is a fast-paced read with a strong message. When Nadia’s dog is rescued by a boy she has never seen in the neighbourhood before, she immediately labels him ‘The Invisible Boy’ and is determined to find out who he is. Influenced by the comics she reads Nadia is used to making up dramas, often jumping to the wrong conclusions! How Nadia pieces together the real story of her new friend is a well-crafted drama. Nadia’s shock and horror is powerfully conveyed.
A Story Told in Poems | Joseph Coehlo is a poet who has been in the situation of ‘the one to watch’ because he has been producing lots of wonderful work that has made an impact from picture books to teen reads. This is his most ground-breaking and powerful exploration of poetry as a form and as a story-telling medium to date. Based on the legend of Daphne – she was a Naiad-nymph who was loved by the god Apollo who pursued her until she grew exhausted and called on Gaia for help. She was transformed into a laurel tree which Apollo then adopted as his sacred plant. This creates a clever and intriguing interweaving of the ancient legend with the reaction and feelings of a girl, also called Daphne, who is coping with the grief caused by the loss of her father. She turns to her phone for aid, and her local library as she tries to sort out the past and find a way to build connections again. The verse is heart-breaking, powerful, totally involving, and engrossing to read. The layers of meaning enlighten the story in this rich poetic exploration – a tour de force – full of energy and a rich palette of language. This is not to disregard the evocative and powerful illustrations from one of our most innovative and prize-winning illustrators to add stylish, edgy and thought-provoking illustrations. The whole package is an experience that will cause discussion and deep thought in every reader.
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.
Winner of the Wainwright Prize 2020 | Winner of the 2020 Wainwright Prize, Diary of a Young Naturalist chronicles the turning of Dara McAnulty's world, from spring to summer, autumn to winter, on his home patch, at school, in the wild and in his head. Evocative, raw and beautifully written, this very special book vividly explores the natural world from the perspective of an autistic teenager juggling homework, exams and friendships alongside his life as a conservationist and environmental activist. With a sense of awe and wonder, Dara describes in meticulous detail encounters in his garden and the wild, with blackbirds, whooper swans, red kites, hen harriers, frogs, dandelions, skylarks, bats, cuckoo flowers, Irish hares and many more species. The power and warmth of his words also draw an affectionate and moving portrait of a close-knit family making their way in the world.
Winner of the Klaus Flugge Prize 2020 | Longlisted for the UKLA Book Awards 2020 | Everyone, children too, knows what it’s like when sadness unexpectedly comes to call, that sense of gloom that is hard to explain, and almost impossible to shake off. The situation is very skilfully depicted in this picture book, which also provides ideas and strategies for ways to cope. A young child is shown opening the door to a doleful, shapeless creature and the two become so close they are almost one. But the invisible narrator has suggestions for ways to help Sadness, so that one day, when the child wakes, it’s gone. The story is very affecting and will be useful to children who have a particular sadness in their lives as well as those who feel it for no reason they can articulate. An important and rather beautiful book. The Klaus Flugge judges said: ‘beautifully simple and pared back; the page layouts seem sparse and crisp but the work the illustrations are doing is quite extraordinary in terms of the message that sadness is something we might have to live with.’
Interest Age Teen Reading Age 8 | From acclaimed author Eve Ainsworth comes this new novella that packs a powerful punch in its openhearted, honest account of a teen girl trying her hardest to cope with her mum’s alcoholism. Violet has always seen her mum as being “strong, funny and in control”, as a “pretty, glamorous and confident” person who firmly believes, “You have to give a good impression at all times.” In contrast, Violet is “the quiet one …I’m the worrier who can never be confident.” But since her mum’s boyfriend left, Mum’s “it’s just one glass” of wine is starting to have an affect on their family life, with Violet increasingly having to pick-up caring for her little brother when Mum’s too hung-over to get out of bed. As Violet finds more empty bottles around the house, and finds herself having to lie to cover her mum, matters come to a scary head and she knows she has to be brave and seek help. Truly brilliant at capturing Violet’s conflicted feelings – an excruciating pull between love and anger – this compelling, moving story will engross fans of true-to-life fiction, while casting sensitive light on a tough subject. And, since this is published by the ever-brilliant Barrington Stoke, this book is especially suitable for struggling, reluctant or dyslexic readers, with its expert attention to vocabulary, layout, font and paper.
The hilarious first children's book from the UK's bestselling non-fiction author. Do you ever think about your body and how it all works? Like really properly think about it? The human body is extraordinary and fascinating and, well . . . pretty weird. Yours is weird, mine is weird, your maths teacher's is even weirder. This book is going to tell you what's actually going on in there, and answer the really important questions, like: Are bogeys safe to eat? Look, if your nose is going to all that effort of creating a snack, the least we can do is check out its nutritional value. (Yes, they're safe. Chew away!) And . . . How much of your life will you spend on the toilet? About a year - so bring a good book. (I recommend this one.) So sit back, relax, put on some rubber gloves, and let a doctor take you on a poo (and puke) filled tour of your insides. Welcome to Kay's Anatomy*. *a fancy word for your body. See, you're learning already.
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.
Love Yourself and Grow Up Fearless | It is worrying to think that most girls feel dissatisfied with their bodies, and that this can lead to serious problems including depression and eating disorders. Can some of those body image worries be eased? Body image expert and psychology professor Dr Charlotte Markey helps girls aged 9-15 to understand, accept, and appreciate their bodies. She provides all the facts on puberty, mental health, self-care, why diets are bad news, dealing with social media, and everything in-between. Girls will find answers to questions they always wanted to ask, the truth behind many body image myths, and real-life stories from girls who share their own experiences. Through this easy-to-read and beautifully illustrated guide, Dr Markey teaches girls how to nurture both mental and physical heath to improve their own body image, shows the positive impact they can have on others, and enables them to go out into the world feeling fearless!
Highly Commended in the Branford Boase Award 2020 | Ten-year-old Frank loves code and numbers; they’re a way to make sense of the world, as well as providing secret languages to share with his friends and his mum. Frank’s five-year-old brother Max is autistic and for him the world is often a scary place, when anything unexpected, too loud or too bright can cause him to have a meltdown. The story is narrated by Frank and every reader will understand his frustration at the unfairness of life. We know that he loves Max, but we know too how hard Max makes life for all the family. Frank is then faced with something even more terrible when tragedy strikes. With the help of those around him we watch Frank find a way to make sense of what has happened and the bravery to cope with the different world. Katya Balen has worked with neuro-divergent children and there’s a powerful sense of truth and understanding in her beautifully told story. If they like Wonder by R. J. Palacio they'll love The Space We're In.
August 2020 Debut of the Month | Will Levine has two passions in his life, the local wildlife reserve behind his school and the turtles he has found there. The rest of his life is a bit of a disaster in his eyes – he is given an unkind nickname at school, due to a facial difference, he has to cope with an upcoming Bar Mitzvah, and he has a community service he needs to fulfil for a boy who is confined to a hospital room. Then, to make matters worse, the county plans to sell off the nature reserve. Plus, there is a looming surgical procedure for Will – who hates having blood tests, never mind anything else. How can he make these things work for him – how can he survive it all, when all he really wants to do is look after his turtles and hide away. Slowly Will responds to the needs of RJ who is stuck in the hospital, and they build a strong and wildly adventurous friendship that takes Will away from his comfort zone and helps RJ experience things he would never have chance to do himself. As well as the obvious empathy the book elicits from its readers there is a wonderful amount of humour, and some passing knowledge gained about turtles too! A wonderful story for all of life’s outsiders – offering hope and new perspectives.
Twig (a boy) wakes in the afterlife with vague memories of his Da, here he meets a Raven, Kruuk, to help guide him into Heaven where he will be part of the great forgetting. But Twig wanders off the path and meets the Gatherer, who gives him the Lost Soul Atlas, a skeleton key and a bag of bones with which to open Crossings between the physical world and the hereafter. Can Twig open all the Crossings whilst being chased by the Officials? If he opens them will his memories drag him into the real world and keep him there, in which case he will fade before he finds out what happened to him before he died…. He will forget his close ‘blood family’ friend Flea – who is also a street child and a pick pocket. This is a thought-provoking look at life for street children, how they survive against the odds, the forces lined against them as they try to live, and the lack of choices they have when forced to thieve to keep themselves alive. It is an exploration of loyalty amongst friends and family. There are scares - and lots of caring - but ultimately it is a song to the strength of the human spirit. The author was once told “to shine a light in all the dark places” – and much as one might expect from knowledge of Fraillon’s previous prize-winning books – this book does exactly that, using a richness of language that both exhilarates and makes you cry. It is both timeless and ageless having a wide appeal. A powerful read I would highly recommend.
Holly Sterling creates very recognizable, diverse characters and these are the perfect backdrop for this sensitively written guide which will be helpful in both home and school contexts. The situations depicted and described are recognisable and familiar to young readers. The body language is particularly well captured on the page which describes in child friendly terms what it feels like to be shy. The situations used as examples, in Poppy’s story attending a big occasion with her parents and in Matteo’s story attending a friend’s birthday party, are instantly familiar. What is shown and described is how a child might feel at first and how that might change during the event and how they can be supported to eventually enjoy the experience and learn strategies for dealing with new situations. The Story Words page is a simple glossary of words and expressions which really develop understanding. At the end of the book a Next Steps section with suggestions for activities and discussion will be very useful and the section where each story is summarised in four steps will be invaluable for modelling writing. The first of a must have series for the early years.
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
Book Band: Lime Ideal for ages 6+ | Dylan dreams that he’s living in a jam jar, cut off from his family, in a silent world. In fact, he’s losing his hearing and that brings all sorts of issues. He doesn’t like how loud the world is with his hearing aids in, doesn’t like the way the others in his class treat him differently now; and he feels that without sound to anchor him he’s somehow floating away. It takes a hair-raising experience, and the quick-thinking and love of his dog Pluto to bring him back down to earth. In the new Bloomsbury Readers series, this story is written specifically for children just growing reading confidence and understanding, with short chapters and illustrations on every page. Nonetheless, the story is subtle and moving, with lots to prompt discussion and reflection. There are questions to share with children at the end to help them get the most from the story.
Book Band: Brown Ideal for ages 7+ | Polly Ho-Yen’s story presents readers with big questions about life and what’s really important to us. Mae suffers from severe asthma and often needs to make frightening dashes to the hospital with her parents. It’s on one of these occasions that she notices a strange black hole opening – it leads to a parallel universe, one where she doesn’t have asthma. That’s not the only thing that’s different however, and Mae has a decision to make about whether being asthma free is worth the other things that would change. In the new Bloomsbury Readers series, this story is written specifically for children growing reading confidence and understanding, with short chapters and frequent illustrations. The telling is simple, effective and guaranteed to catch and hold children’s attention, while the issues the story raises are complex and important, certain to prompt discussion (and there’s a list of questions to put to children at the end to help with this).
A Julia Eccleshare Pick of the Month July 2020 | Meesha loves making things. And she is good at it too. But the one thing she doesn’t know how to make is friends. It seems to be easy but for Meesha it isn’t! When Meesha tries to share her ideas with other children they are just confused or uninterested. So instead of playing with other children, Meesha makes some wonderful friends of her own. Snipping and sticking she soon has a lovely crowd of chums she can enjoy being with. But a real friend would be nice and when Meesha meets Josh she finds exactly the friend she has been looking for. Soon Meesha and Josh are busy making more friends together. In both words and pictures Tom Percival tells a gentle and touching story about the importance of friendship and how to develop it.