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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.
Hard-hitting and, ultimately, infused with hope, Shappi Khorsandi’s Kissing Emma tackles big issues (poverty, class divisions, toxic masculinity, victim-blaming, and male coercion of women) with incredible honesty and authenticity. Inventively riffing on the true story of Emma Hamilton, Lord Nelson's mistress, this tells the gripping story of a young women’s journey to self-determination in a society obsessed with looks and economic status. Emma and her mum have long lived with her father’s abusive, controlling ways: “Sometimes he said to Mum, ‘Put some slap on, you look half-dead,’ so she’d do her face. But if she put on some lipstick and a bit of mascara without him telling her to, he’d scream, ‘You look like a tart!’ till she cried and took it off. No way of predicting it”. When he’s suddenly gone from their lives in extreme circumstances, Emma and Mum are forced to move into her grandmother’s small flat. There’s never enough money, and her mother hopes that attractive Emma will find a nice rich man to rescue them both, while Nan advises her to “Put less on show, love. Men can’t help themselves around a bit of flesh. You can’t dangle a lamb chop in front of a lion and expect it not to bite”. Amidst such poor advice, Emma discovers she has a talent for acting and resolves to up her aspirations, deciding, “I had to kill the girl from the estate. It was time to reinvent myself.” As a result, when Emma meets a couple of apparent nice guys from a modelling agency, she’s quickly coerced into an abusive situation while hoping to find Instagram influencer fame and fortune. Emma’s story is utterly gripping - readers will come to really care for her, and find themselves urging her to make different decisions, to find a different path in life. Being an authentic kind of novel, there’s no simplistic happily ever-after-ending here, but there is a glorious sense of triumph and transformation as Emma feels a surge of enough-is-enough self-pride and vows to live a life free from male coercion; a life in which she’s in control and happy, as she deserves to be.
A welter of emotions engulf Mira in this touching pre-teen story about secrets and how to keep them and share them. Strongly set in a busy family, Mira’s life is full of the ups and downs of family, friends and school; most particularly there is sadness in knowing that her beloved grandmother is dying and happiness as her interest in a mysterious boy in her class blossoms. Mira tells her story with appealing directness.
Families come in all shapes and sizes and this cheerful picturebook celebrates that beautifully. Lily-May is sad when she learns Dad is going to move away, but Mum and Dad reassure her it’s going to be alright and soon she’s listing the positives of her new situation. She has more time with Mum and then, when Peter moves in, more grandparents to play with not to mention more noise when his young sons come to stay too. There are still some wobbles, but nothing that Mum and Dad can’t sort, and the final pages capture her birthday party, much more fun with her big fantastic family. Though the book is described as ‘a story about parents separating’, the emphasis is strongly on that big new family formed as a result, and it’s so positive and encouraging it’s just the thing to share with young children going through the same as Lily-May or to help explain a friend’s or other young family member’s new situation. The rhyming text is fun to read aloud and Ali Pye’s clear, bright illustrations will prompt lots of conversations.
Tilda’s life is just as she likes it until, suddenly, everything seems to be difficult. Nothing seems as it should be, everything is just upside down. How can Tilda get her life to turn the right side up again? Watching a ladybird struggle to get off its back gives Tilda a clue: if you want something, you just have to work at it! Slowly but surely she starts to put enjoyment back into her life and soon books are fun to read again and her friends welcome her back to play.
Friendship and family in all their complicated forms, domestic abuse, bullying, finding the strength to confront the truth - Yasmin Rahman’s This is My Truth packs a whole lot of big themes into its compassionate pages. The harrowingly authentic scenes of an abusive marriage show how male bullies operate in the domestic sphere - the control, the pathetic physical intimidation and harm they conceal from family and friends. This is powerfully important stuff, powerfully and honestly portrayed by the author of the acclaimed All the Things We Never Said. As Amani faces the stresses of her impending GCSEs (exacerbated by the pressure to become a vet like her abusive, controlling father), she finds an outlet in doing what she really loves - making films, “practically the only thing that brings me joy.” But alongside making playful pastiche movies with her little brother Ismail (their relationship is a thing of beauty), she documents the Bad Nights by filming her face while listening to her father abuse her mother. Meanwhile, Amani’s best friend – super-smart, super-confident Huda - stands up to bullies, but hides secret struggles of her own. Huda lives with loving foster parents, but with their own baby on the way, she’s scared she’ll be pushed out. As a result of their secrecy, Amani and Huda are envious of each other’s home lives, until Huda witnesses an abusive outburst. Though it (rightfully) doesn’t shirk from the brutal reality of bullying and abuse, This is My Truth is ultimately a story of hope and survival as the seeds of future flourishing are sown.
Who Do You Think You Are? meets You Choose! in this inclusive picture book that opens up discussions about what makes us who we are. Perfect for ages 3+, this is a joyful celebration of all the pieces, places and people that make us who we are. It is a wonderful way to get children thinking about and learning about their own families, and also opening up discussions about all of the other pieces that come together to make us all unique: from our friends and food we eat, to activities we get up to and the places we go.
Perfectly child-centred, Storm in a Jar tells the moving, honest story of loveable Arlo’s distress in the wake of his much-loved Nana passing away. After visiting her every Sunday, Nana’s no longer there, the jar of sweets she used to top up for him will never be refilled. So, Arlo keeps the jar with him, as a reminder of Nana. In time, his sadness turns to clouds of anger - the “jar felt heaver and filled with a moody sea” as he lashes out, needing to unleash his grief. Talking helps and, with the support of his teacher and family, Arlo navigates his way through the storm, and a beautiful new tradition begins. The storm in a jar metaphor is wonderfully evoked in words and pictures that speak deeply to young children struggling with the most difficult of emotions. As such, it’s a valuable practical tool for adults seeking to help children understand and manage loss and grief, and truly a support for children experiencing them.
Spey is from a broken home – but happy, settled and doing well at school - living with his Mum and getting on with life. That is, until he gets two surprises one on top of the other. His father, an ex-convict who he has never met before turns up on his sofa for Christmas Day and his Mum gives him a letter that has been stuck in the post for some time… This is the start of an edgy relationship developing with his long-lost Dad as they search for the sender of the letter – a playgroup friend of Spey’s who has become involved with county lines drug organisers. Spey is driven throughout all of the novel by the authentic emotions of a teen trying to come to terms with family, broken promises and broken friendships. Told in the voices of Spey and Dee (the county lines member) throughout their lives provide a stark contrast but with both expressing longing for the friend they think they have lost. The novel is set over three to four days one Christmas as Spey sets out on his quest to find his almost impossibly lost friend. Lawrence’s writing is always compelling and packed with empathy for her fully imagined characters – this is no different. The sense of place and of alienation is realised in full and the sense of urgency in finding Dee keeps you reading long after you should have closed the book! A sure hand guides this odyssey as Spey searches for his friend whilst full of his own conflicting emotions about his father. An excellent read.
From the team which brought you the critically acclaimed If All the World Were… we have an inspirational story about finding your voice, both literally and metaphorically. The lyrical text and expressive images capture the intense anxiety of the shy protagonist who never speaks in school and also the transformative power of a good teacher. The illustrations show us the colour, vivacity and joy which Miss Flotsam brings to the classroom and the creativity which she inspires. Getting the child engaged in responding to poetry is the first step into unlocking her feelings and revealing what she needs to say. Gradually and cleverly building confidence and ensuring a nurturing atmosphere in the classroom, Miss Flotsam supports the child until she is ready to read her words aloud. The visual representation of creativity is so well done and is a perfect match for the carefully considered words. This lovely story has a powerful message of resilience, courage and determination and will encourage all children to unlock their potential.
Particularly suitable for struggling, reluctant and dyslexic readers aged 7+ | Dotted with knock knock jokes and including an hilarious bit of involuntary roller skating, this little book will have young readers smiling. Anna Liza wants to be a psychiatrist like her mum, after all, she says, a job where you can make sad people happy again must be the best job in the world. Unknown to her mum, she’s set up a practice in the waiting room which is where she meets Edward. Edward’s sad because his daddy is sad, and Anna Liza is determined to help. Her unorthodox approach – it’s where the roller skating comes in – certainly does the trick. Lots of children will know an adult who is unhappy like Edward’s dad, and this amusing story touches lightly on the subject of depression while reminding us all of the things that make life worth living. For more gently, funny treatments of depression for children, see Brilliant by Roddy Doyle and Aubrey and the Terrible Yoot by Horatio Clare.
A Julia Eccleshare Pick of the Month August 2021 | Tilda’s life is just as she likes it until, suddenly, everything seems to be difficult. Nothing seems as it should be, everything is just upside down. How can Tilda get her life to turn the right side up again? Watching a ladybird struggle to get off its back gives Tilda a clue: if you want something, you just have to work at it! Slowly but surely she starts to put enjoyment back into her life and soon books are fun to read again and her friends welcome her back to play.
Abigail Balfe is autistic and has written this honest, amusing and very useful book about some of the things she was aware of as she was growing up. Balfe knew she was different all the way through her childhood and youth – and this book is full of observations on how she navigated her younger years. It was not until she was an adult that her diagnosis of autism was delivered – which suddenly explained a great deal of confusing issues from her youth. The book is full of all the milestones of a young life from changing schools to puberty to friendships to children’s birthday parties – and how someone who feels different coped with all those stages. Written with an honesty and openness that is refreshing – and full of quirky illustrations by the author - this is an information book one can sit and read like a novel, as well as using it to dip into for information on all sorts of topics to do with neurodiversity. It is packed full of useful descriptions and definitions, has a thorough glossary which doubles as an index in a very practical way whilst also signposting websites and information sources for further investigation. A book for everyone to read (adults too), not just for people with neurodiversity issues – this book is a great explainer, full of empathy for different situations, which explodes many misconceptions about autistic people along the way! I wish I had had this available many years ago when teaching an autistic child on a one-to-one basis.
Bold and brutally, brilliantly honest, Melvin Burgess’s multi-award-winning (and multi-layered) Junk presents the definitively frank account of why young people might head down a drug-taking path - and remain there. A love triangle, of sorts, between its two main characters and their addiction to heroin, once read Junk is never forgotten. It strikes deep with unflinching power, never shirking from truths that need to be told, which it does from multiple compelling viewpoints, and with incredible empathy. Smart and thoughtful Tar has been blighted by abuse at the hands of his parents. In contrast, middle class Gemma has attentive parents, which has driven them to strictness, and drives her to leave home. Both on the streets of Bristol, Tar and Gemma fall in together, and fall in love, though it’s not long before they tumble into a spiral of drug-related devastation. In a novel packed with agonising episodes, perhaps most poignant of all is witnessing Tar and Lily convince themselves they’re in control of their heroin addiction, but since it’s exactly that - an addiction - they are not, and their story will cut to your soul.
This is a book that was inspired by the issues teens were facing as a result of the lockdowns and lack of contact with peers and school. Nicola Morgan, known for her no-nonsense very approachable way with incredibly difficult and important subjects for teenagers set herself the task of writing this very readable guide to growing their own resilience. The pandemic was not a situation any one person could control – but this book sets out lots of strategies for dealing with whatever the world throws at you – be it pandemic, personal crisis, or just navigating that difficult time we call teenage! The book is arranged into five specific areas that will work in different combinations for individuals. Not every reader will need every section, but there is definitely something in here for everyone. Reading this book will give everyone a set of tools – whether to build your personal network, or in coping strategies or other areas with an approach that uses character studies, simple activities, as well as giving lots of space and time for reflection on what has been read. Knowing Nicola is an expert on the teenage brain and mental health you know the subject is well researched and based on the latest scientific research. The topic I had not encountered before in any other book was the idea of ‘heartsong’ and knowing what your heartsong is. Heartsong is defined by Nicola as a feeling of joy, of satisfaction, of fulfilment, of happiness – different from well-being – a positive emotion just for the individual. It’s the ‘I’m glad I did that’ of life. I’m glad I read this – and I know just the right person who will value this, too. Meanwhile, every school with teenagers in it should have this book available in multiple copies for their students – so many will get benefit from it.
Interest Teen Reading Age 8 | “A poor young girl abandoned by her mum and then shoved in the care system at the age of six after living with her poorly nan.” This is how thirteen-year-old Amy summarises her life near the opening of Know My Place, Eve Ainsworth’s poignant, compassionate story of a girl’s longing to feel at home while moving through the foster care system. Amy has “had more than nine social workers and none have lasted over a year”, and she’s had plenty of foster families too. Now en route to a new family, the Dawsons, her social worker says she hopes this will be Amy’s permanent placement, after “what happened at the Gibsons.” The intrigue about what happened is perfectly plotted, with the narrative shifting back to Amy’s traumatic time there. Understandably, she’s reluctant to believe her new home is as perfect as it seems. A lovely home, loving foster parents, kind brother Kenny - it has to be too good to be true. I loved Amy’s voice - her first-person narrative is pitch-perfect and endearingly authentic. What’s more, since this is published by Barrington Stoke, Know My Place has been written and printed with struggling and dyslexic readers in mind (teenage interest, with a reading age of 8+) making it an ultra-inclusive, thoroughly gripping and moving story for fans of real-life fiction. Particularly suitable for struggling and dyslexic teen readers.
Interest Age 7-10 Reading Age 8 | Written with great empathy and Rauf's trademark humour, The Great (Food) Bank Heist is a moving story that gives a child's-eye view of the increasing problem of food poverty. A percentage of all royalties earned from the sale of this book will be going towards Trussell Trust Food Banks, the Greggs Foundation Breakfast Club Programme and selected grassroots food bank charities.
Why the World is Not as Bad as You Think | From the same stable as the very excellent Dosh: How to Earn It, Save It, Spend It, Grow It we have a clear, accessible, fact packed analysis of the crises facing the world, charting the progress that has been made and the grounds for hope. I think everyone has recognised that this generation of young people may feel completely overwhelmed by what they have experienced and be suffering serious mental health issues as a result. This book aims to help re-set their view of the world. The fascinating introduction explains psychologically the human fascination for bad news and how media focuses on the memorable story, which is inevitably horrific. There is an excellent summation of what fake news is and the difference between disinformation and misinformation and then some brilliant tips on how to fact check and spot fake news. But this is by no means a recipe for complacency since every section: Humans, Politics, Planet, Health, Society and Arts, begins by outlining the problems, before the mix of quotes, anecdotes and fact boxes and case studies shows exactly what has been achieved already and what is in progress. This includes many projects that I certainly had never heard of, such as the Great Green Wall of Trees being built across the whole of Africa. Every section also includes Challenges – empowering ways in which an individual can contribute to solving and not being the problem. It is highly admirable that this book goes beyond the obvious environmental issues to include politics and society and it is salutary to remind ourselves of the progress made on human rights, education and equality. Also admirable and entirely fitting with the concept is a list of information sources and the origins of all the quotes used. An invaluable and much needed resource from an author with a real facility for straight talking and not talking down to young people. The LoveReading LitFest invited Rashmi to the festival to talk about Good News. 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 Rashmi in conversation with reading ambassador and guest presenter 13 year old Jack and find out why every child should read this book. Check out a preview of the event here.
This is the third book from this author and illustrator partnership, after the acclaimed Through the Eyes of Me and Through the Eyes of Us, which focused specifically upon the world of the autistic child and were inspired by Jon’s daughter. Here the scope has been broadened to look at all sorts of difference, both visible and invisible. Each spread is a delightful conversation with a child or children explaining what is different about them and what can be difficult, but most importantly focuses on the positives and what they enjoy and want to do. The text captures a very natural matter-of-fact voice and speaks directly to the innate and healthy curiosity of all children. The lively illustrations are not just brilliantly inclusive, they give a really joyous feel to the whole book. Covering a wide range of conditions including Autism, ADHD, cystic fibrosis, cerebal palsy, Downs Syndrome, muscular dystrophy, asthma, dyslexsia, dyspraxia, epilepsy, deafness and blindness makes this book a wonderful resource to prompt discussion and empathy, but is also valuable for the children who live with these daily challenges and may need to see them themselves reflected in such a positive way. An added bonus at the back of the book is an explanation of terms and useful web links. Altogether an essential book for the classroom, but also one that can be shared and enjoyed at home.
When she was younger, Ellie used to love watching the hares leap and play on the common with her mum. But with every year that goes by since she lost her mum, it's getting harder for Ellie to remember her and those happy memories. Until one day on the way home from school, Ellie finds an injured hare on the path. The poor animal looks so scared, she has to do something to help. Nursing the hare back to health will be a big responsibility, but it might just be Ellie's chance to feel close to her mum again...
The Time to...is a series of clear and well-illustrated books for very young children to share with their parents and carers. The books are inclusive, embracing all elements of society and offer an instructive and supportive resource for those caring for pre-schoolers. The pictures in Time to Go to Bed are so good for developing vocabulary, with lots of questions and answers. Where do you sleep – the beach, a bed, a basket? Why do we sleep – for energy, recovery. How do we know we are tired? The useful tips at the back are really comforting to tired and worried adults in need of some practical support and advice!
The Time to...is a series of clear and well-illustrated books for very young children to share with their parents and carers. The books are inclusive, embracing all elements of society and offer an instructive and supportive resource for those caring for pre-schoolers. Time to Care has plenty of interesting pictures providing points for discussion and would be ideal for a reception or nursery class PSHE lesson as it tackles so well the different types of caring – friends, family, environment, and the wider community. It has thoughtful ideas for parents and carers, such as the importance of saying thank you and thinking of the feelings of others.
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