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Very cleverly this gentle story links the astonishing tale of the migration of the tiny swift to find a safe nesting site in Africa, with the story of Leila, who also must travel thousands of miles to find a safe home. The parallel migrations mirror each other in the perils of the journey but also in the hope engendered by the welcome they receive in their new home. The passage of the brave bird and the places and people who mark the passing of the seasons by his journey is evocatively told and really highlights to young readers both the physical distance and the challenges of climate and geography. All of which subtly underscores the challenge for Leila and the physical and social challenges she will face. It is thought provoking but wonderfully hopeful too. As if the miracle of nature and the endeavours of the swift can act as an inspiration for human endurance and kindness as shown by the kindness of the welcome for Leila from other children. Manuela Adreani’s gorgeous, stylish illustrations are the perfect foil for the simple yet powerful text. With many cross curricular uses for older children as well this is a very worthwhile purchase.
The title of this highly empathetic and nuanced novel continues to cleverly resonate when we see chapters headed “the bulimic,” “the cool girl,” “the girlfriend,” “the popular girl”, “the best friend” and so on. At first, we do not identify these first-person narrators, but they soon begin to mesh and enable us to have a real depth of understanding of the main characters and emphasises the conflicting roles that girls feel themselves forced to inhabit. Taking place over a timeline that spans just a week, a high school is rocked and divided by the revelation that Mike, a popular high achiever and ‘golden boy’ student, has given his girlfriend, Maya, a black eye. Subsequent rumours result in split opinions about Maya: some believe that Mike should be expelled, while others think he might not have been her abuser. Maya’s best friend, Junie, from whom she’s become distanced due to Mike’s isolating behaviour, is also dealing with anxiety and obsessive-compulsive disorder which she copes with by cutting and Maya’s relationship anxiety has also prompted bulimia. This is an unflinching, hard-hitting novel which certainly does not glamorise disordered behaviour, but enables us to understand how these negative coping mechanisms arise and to appreciate the challenges the girls face as they learn to trust and help each other again. Ultimately this is an empowering novel which advocates honesty, self-belief and the value of friendship. It will resonate deeply and provoke valuable discussion of important real-life issues.
Four very different characters take centre stage in this unusual and beautifully illustrated book. There’s a horse, wise and reliable; a boy, Christopher Robin-like in his curiosity and kindness; a mole, driven by an optimism, and love of cake; and a fox, vulnerable and in need of love and understanding. The story of their friendship is told through Charlie Mackesy’s evocative pen and ink sketches. Most but not all are accompanied by three or four lines of text, not so much a narrative but rather meditations, little flashes of insight into the human condition: “We have such a long way to go,” sighed the boy. “Yes, but look how far we’ve come,” said the horse. It’s a book full of tenderness and compassion, with much to make readers smile and more yet to prompt a sense of forgiveness, even of ourselves. Though simple enough for the youngest children, words and pictures will resonate just as much with adult readers. A very special book.
Interest Age 5-8 | There’s poignancy as well as humour in this new story from Jonathan Meres. Young Frank is desperate for a new bike, but he knows that money doesn’t grow on trees, so when his big sister offers to pay him to help with her paper round, he agrees. Despite the 6.00am starts, it’s actually good fun and both Frank and Lottie are excited when they make friends with an old lady as they deliver papers to her care home. Their friendship proves very important as the story reaches its end. There’s lots to enjoy here, the story is short but very rewarding and Meres’ understanding of his readers is spot on.
This is a sensitive, often funny and thoroughly engaging story of teenagers coming to terms with who they are. It’s easy to think in these liberal times that anything goes, but teens will be quick to point out that growing up is as difficult as it’s ever been. It’s particularly hard for David, one of the two central characters in this assured debut. David has known since the age of eight that he wants to be a girl. Teased as a freak at school, he feels he can’t even tell his family. New boy Leo seems to have problems too and when the two become friends they discover they have more in common than they ever thought. This ultra-readable, highly entertaining story could also provide readers with some much needed reassurance that normal is as normal does.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Longlisted for the UKLA Book Awards 2020 | May 2019 Book of the Month | Starring four little animals that children will be quick to identify with, The Suitcase is a touching story about friendship and an excellent way to start conversations about how we respond to people we don’t know and the importance of kindness. A stranger arrives pulling a suitcase and tells the other animals that inside is his home. Curious – and suspicious too – they force it open while he’s asleep and dreaming of his long journey. Inside the animals find a teacup – now broken – and a photo of a small house. The image of the broken teacup is upsetting and young readers will be happy to see the animals’ response and how they find ways to make the stranger their friend. The message here is powerful and profound and beautifully served by the simplicity of the telling.
June 2019 Debut of the Month | Shortlisted for the Klaus Flugge Prize 2019 | In this wonderfully warm role reversal story a little girl assigns herself the role of parent and spends a day ‘looking after’ her daddy. She makes sure he’s up early, that he gets lots of exercise and keeps a watchful eye on him in the supermarket. The pictures tell a quite different story to the text though and it’s clear who’s really in charge. What’s also clear is just how much fun the two have together and how much love there Is between them. The illustrations are realistic and full of tenderness. This is Eve Coy’s first picture book and she is very talented. The Klaus Flugge Judges said: the images tell their own stories; really good interplay between text and illustration; I smiled all the way through.
Dad cries, particularly when he is drinking, which is most of the time. When mum knows it is best to leave, Louis must try to understand his new life and help his younger brother. Before he can do these things, Louis needs to start to like himself. This is a profound and beautiful book in which text and pictures come together perfectly.
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.”