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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.
Selected for The Book Box by LoveReading4Kids | From the author of Fall Out, Gut Feelings is a powerful autobiographical novel-in-verse charting a boy’s life-changing operation at the age of eleven through to his hopeful young adulthood as a gay man. Sure to be enjoyed by fans of Sarah Crossan and Dean Atta’s The Black Flamingo, it’s both beautifully written and easy to read, with an impactful, unsentimental voice. There’s no self-pity here, despite the harrowing nature of what he endures. Diagnosed with FAP (Familial adenomatous polyposis, a rare genetic condition in which a person develops precancerous polyps in the large intestine), Chris must have a total colectomy. His state of fear, isolation and loneliness is palpable as he describes the enemas and bedsores, and the morphine which evaporates his “maelstrom of fears, failures, social pressures”. Recovering in hospital, well-meaning visitors “have no idea what it’s like/To be confined to this prison, Bars lining the windows, Double glazing boxing me in - These familiar faces have/No idea how to reach me”. Then, once home, he feels abandoned: “The surgery has fixed me - I’m no longer worthy/Of attention and support.” And this isn’t the first time Chris has experienced adversity, for alongside the direct, detached exposition of his present-day existence, we learn of Chris’s troubled background - the father who had a debilitating stroke, the school peers who bullied him. Then, in time, through the darkest of days, comes a turning point when he realises that “Some will accept me, Some will reject me/But I must learn to love myself Because I am done with fitting in” and he shifts towards renewal and hope - “I’ll keep writing, Keep learning/Until I am/Free to embrace Who I am.” Illuminating on living with chronic invisible illness, this story lingers long in the soul, and special mention must go to the book’s design and layout, with letters and words perfectly positioned as visual markers of emotional states.
January 2021 Book of the Month | Everyone struggles to cope with their emotions, but it’s especially difficult for young children who often lack the vocabulary to express how they are feeling, even to themselves. Fearne Cotton is both a mum and a champion of mental health and wellbeing and her book cleverly provides children with practical ways to learn about their feelings and through that to understand why they feel the way they do, and to deal with emotions such as anger, sadness and anxiety. It does this through fun and engaging interactive exercises, which allow children to be creative and to play even as they work out what’s going on in their heads. It’s a book that very many parents will welcome and it will be a real boost for lots of children. Congratulations to Fearne Cotton for the lightness of touch she brings, and for keeping it all so friendly and accessible. Other useful books in this area include the new Happy Healthy Minds series edited by Alain de Botton for The School of Life, and for children even younger, we recommend Eva Eland’s award winning When Sadness Comes to Call and the follow up Where Happiness Begins. And you can also find a selection of books, to help build confidence and self-esteem, here.
Stewart Foster has made an award-winning name for himself as an author who writes stories which provide real insights into other lives, often with characters who must negotiate some quite challenging emotional territory. This fourth novel takes him into some very personal history having been a foster carer himself, and tells the story of Sam McCann, a boy who longs for a permanent home and a real family. Sam is an unforgettable and not always likeable character and the Perfect Parent Project he launches with his best friend Leah may be genuinely funny in Sam’s almost wilful bad choices and the consequent inescapable disasters that occur, but we gradually find out more of his back story and begin to understand his impulses and empathise with his lack of self-esteem and the setbacks he has endured. Sam is also learning along the way. Recognising his own self-obsessed neglect of his friend’s problems and waking up to the importance of the relationships under his nose and the unimportance of the qualities he had thought were paramount for a parent. These being the BMW, the latest gadgets and the Disneyland holidays that show that he is, in many ways, a very typical eleven year old! Never patronising nor preachy, this engaging, highly entertaining and fast paced story will prompt some valuable discussion about other lives and experiences as well as deepening children’s understanding of their own emotional responses. An absolute must for empathy collections, this will also be a popular leisure read.
A Julia Eccleshare Pick of the Month January 2021 | Children are experiencing sadness to a far greater degree than is usual but how can they best manage that and how can they describe it? Anne Booth’s gentle text explores how a little boy creates a shelter for his sadness giving it a place where it can take on the many different shapes and moods it may arrive in. Having a safe place where he can engage with the sadness helps the boy to deal with the wide range of moods it may release in him. It also helps him to prepare for a time when he and the sadness may no longer need a shelter but can step out together into a better world. Inspired by the words of Holocaust survivor Etty Hillesum, A Shelter for Sadness is rich in emotion all of which is beautifully realised in David Litchfield’s illustrations.
Chloe loves, loves, LOVES her special uncle Bobby. So when she learns that Uncle Bobby is going to be getting married to his boyfriend Jamie she's not at all pleased. What if Uncle Bobby doesn't have time to play with Chloe anymore? But after spending a fun-filled day with Bobby and Jamie, she soon realises she's not losing an uncle, but gaining a whole new one! An uplifting celebration of love in all its forms, this book is perfect for any child who has a special grown-up in their life.
Selected for The Book Box by LoveReading4Kids | Leo is a curious child but he feels different from the other children in his class and he doesn't understand them. He doesn't like too much noise and the commotion of the classroom can sometimes upset him. When he meets Maya the Giant Pacific Octopus he builds a friendship that assures him he is not alone. The story will strike a chord with children who have Asperger's Syndrome, as well as educate other children about the condition in a way they can relate to.
Voiced by three unforgettable characters – Frankie, Jojo, and Ram, Frankie’s ex boyfriend - whose lives are inextricably bound by unexpected, life-changing circumstances, this impactful novel sparkles with heart, hope and a riveting storyline. Jojo and Frankie have been best friends since forever. Both promising actresses, their lives are on the brink of new horizons, so when Jojo doesn’t turn up to collect her GCSE results, Frankie is frantic with worry. Then, when she eventually hears from Jojo, and also hears a baby crying in the background, Frankie puts two and two together to get six. Could Jojo be responsible for the stolen baby that’s being reported on the local news? Fearing the worst, Frankie does what she must for her dear friend. She tracks her down and discovers an unimaginable truth that truly tests their relationship. Radiant with uplifting portrayals of friendship, and demonstrating that it’s possible to find a way through even the most seemingly impossible situations, this poignant page-turner packs a whole lot of punch in the author’s inimitably empathetic style. Of particular note is the way the novel shows that adults don’t always have the right answer, that life can be confusing no matter what your age, which demonstrates Williamson’s singular respect for her YA readers - she never talks down, and always writes in a spirit of openness.
Interest Age 8+ Reading Age 8 | Tony Bradman’s gripping novella about a (bad) day in the life of a boy caring for his mum is truly touching, and especially great for reluctant readers – the concise, considered storytelling holds attention, and the short chapters are perfect for encouraging readers to keep going, or take a break, as they require. Jayden’s Mum hasn’t been herself since losing her job at the supermarket. “Maybe Mum would do the washing today,” he wonders before school one morning. “They really needed some shopping as well – the fridge was almost empty.” With Mum still in bed, Jayden gets little sister Madison ready for school, all the while worrying about what they’ll do when there’s no money at all, what they’ll eat for dinner now the cupboards are bare. Things get even worse at school when his best friend tells him to “go away...We’re not friends anymore.” Meanwhile, Jayden’s new supply teacher isn’t having a good day either: “She’d wanted to teach kids, but she had also wanted to make a difference to their lives. Yet things had changed, and over the last few years she had seemed to spend all her time filling out forms... And that made her feel cross and sad.” And now she’s here in Jayden’s school feeling lost, wondering whether she should be a teacher at all. Seeing Jayden look so sad pains her heart and then, when his sadness turns to anger and erupts like an angry volcano, Miss Wilson helps him see light at the end of his dark tunnel. Particularly suitable for struggling, reluctant or dyslexic readers aged 8+
Shortlisted for the Blue Peter Book Awards 2021, Best Story | When 11 year old Addie, who is autistic, learns about the 16th century women who were persecuted for witchcraft, she starts to lobby for a local memorial in her small Scottish village. With the help of a new girl at school, she fights valiantly against injustice and oppression.
It's 2002, a year after 9/11, and Shirin has just started at yet another new high school. It's an extremely turbulent time politically, but especially so for a sixteen-year-old Muslim girl who's tired of being stereotyped. Shirin is never surprised by how horrible people can be. She's tired of the rude stares, the degrading comments - even the physical violence she endures as a result of her race, her religion, and the hijab she wears every day. Shirin drowns her frustrations in music and spends her afternoons break-dancing with her brother. But then she meets Ocean James. He's the first person in forever who really seems to want to get to know her. It terrifies her -they seem to come from two irreconcilable worlds - and Shirin has had her guard up against the world for so long that she's not sure she'll ever be able to let it down. Perfect for fans of the Shatter Me series as well as Angie Thomas's The Hate U Give and Nicola Yoon's The Sun is Also A Star.
Highly Commended in the UKLA Book Awards 2019 | Anyone familiar with the story of poor old Humpty Dumpty will be intrigued by Dan Santat’s story of what happens after that fall. In his version the king’s men do manage to put Humpy together again but the cracks are still there, and not just on the outside: a shadow of his former self, Humpty is too afraid to climb back up onto the wall where he used to love to sit and watch the birds. At last though he finds a way to enjoy the skies again and in a surprise ending flies away himself. A powerful story of recovery and overcoming fear this will resonate with all readers. The illustrations are full of clever jokes but portray Humpty’s emotional state perfectly while the sequence that sees him soar away on golden wings is glorious.
The film of All the Bright Places, starring Elle Fanning and Justice Smith, is available on Netflix on 28th February 2020. | Fans of John Green will love this heart-wrenching teenage novel. School students Violet and Theodore Finch first meet on the ledge at the top of the school bell-tower. Of course, it is out of bounds and neither should be there but, for different reasons and in different ways, both are struggling to believe that their lives are worth living. Together, they have something worthwhile to share and maybe, through that sharing, they can save each other – and themselves? Jennifer Niven convincingly captures their despair and their hope and the importance of friendship.
Shortlisted for the Blue Peter Awards 2021, Best Story | “Numbers are great, they make sense - unlike people. You’d think this if you lived with my family.” So Anisha sets the scene for the madcap mystery that unfolds in the chaotic run-up to her Aunty Bindi’s epic wedding. Anisha loves her “sparkly” Aunty Bindi, but it’s not easy being bridesmaid to such a flamboyant figure, especially when she’s on the verge of having a “mega meltdown”! Matters take a scarier turn when Anisha finds a ransom note announcing that Tony, Bindi’s fiancé, has been kidnapped and the wedding must be called off if they want to see him again. “Why did I have to be the one who found the note?” she laments. “I DON’T LIKE DRAMA!” But, in order to prevent her already frazzled family from spiraling into further chaos, Anisha decides to find Tony herself, with the help of her best friend Milo. A hilarious race against time ensues, with clues to pursue, undercover surveillance to be done and the involvement of some decidedly curious characters (among them a weeing lobster), and the menace of Anisha’s “evil” cousins-to-be. The story shimmers with the vibrant exuberance of an Indian wedding, the special warmth of family and friends, and action-packed amusement. Special mention must go to the informative (and funny) footnotes that explain Indian food, customs and language referred to in the story, and to Emma McCann’s energetic illustrations. April 2020 Debut of the Month Books in the Anisha, Accidental Detective Series: 1. Anisha, Accidental Detective 2. School's Cancelled
Take your first steps with Antiracist Baby! Or, rather, follow Antiracist Baby's nine easy steps for building a more equitable world. With bold illustrations and thoughtful, yet playful, text, Antiracist Baby introduces the youngest readers and the grown ups in their lives to the concept and power of antiracism.
Longlisted for the UKLA Book Awards 2021 | This book was designed with bright, curious readers in mind and serves them really well. Author Jamia Wilson was just such a child, never happier than when asking questions about the hows and whys of the world (one of them being why most of the big thinkers in her schoolbooks were white European men). She sets out here to get young people thinking and debating too, posing big questions like ‘is God real?’ and ‘what is the imagination?’. She outlines the beliefs of different thinkers to provide a history of thought – often including quotes and short biographies – but emphasises that everyone picking up the book is a philosopher with equally meaningful, important views. Bursting with ideas, this will start all sorts of conversations and discussions, and open up a world of debate.
A beautiful story about sadness, depression and hope. Blue lives in the darkest depths of the forest. He has long forgotten how to fly, sing and play. The other birds swoop and soar in the sky above him, the sun warming their feathers. But Blue never joins in. Until, one day, Yellow arrives. Step by step, Yellow reaches out to Blue. With patience and kindness. And little by little, everything changes... A thoughtful and uplifting story. Perfect for helping children learn how to deal with and understand sadness, and how to be there for people in their lives struggling with depression.
Wolf wasn't happy being Wolf. When he looked in the mirror he looked BAD. And when he looked bad, he felt bad, and when he felt bad, he acted bad. Wolf wants to change but he's not sure how. He meets members of the animal kingdom who share their own experiences. With their help, Wolf challenges his own preconceptions about identity and finally finds the courage to undergo a magnificent transition....
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.
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