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The books in this section cover a range of PSHE topics including bullying, disability, family issues and mental health. There are both fiction and non-fiction titles and cover age ranges from Toddler to Older Teen.
With its soft, atmospheric illustrations of the countryside and comforting messages around finding confidence and overcoming fears, this sweet picture book is accompanied by a very special extra - a real piece of tartan kilt is tucked into a page near the end, a soft fragment of fabric that will “make the scare go away”. So, what of the story? Scotch is a “sad and lonely scarecrow” who wears a tartan kilt in place of trousers, on account of him having no legs. Scotch’s life takes a brighter turn when a messenger rabbit brings news that he’s been chosen to be a Scare-go. As the rabbit explains, this means that rather than chasing crows away, his job is to help scared children. On his very first mission, Scotch finds his feet (literally) when he helps a little girl. The story is short, but sweet, and the larger-than-usual size of both the physical book and text makes it suitable to read aloud and share with little ones. Joanne Owen, A LoveReading4Kids
Not since Adrian Mole opened his diary have the thoughts and innermost feelings of an adolescent boy been examined so precisely or with such heart. Stan is twelve, shy and a worrier, so the thought of a holiday in Italy with his friend Felix and Felix’s family freaks him out. He’s going though: we meet him at the airport drawing up a ‘duck-it’ list of things he hopes he’ll never have to do. Little does he know that he’ll tick off six out of ten of them on his holiday, and enjoy it too. The first-person narrative lets us in on all Stan’s thoughts, but he’s a good observer of others so we learn loads about the others in the holiday party too, kids and grown-ups. There are laugh-out-loud scenes and moments of pure agony, and through it all Stan is learning loads about himself and life in general. Honest, revealing, compassionate and so entertaining, this is a must read for all the Stans out there – adults, give yourselves a treat and read it too.
Selected for The Book Box by LoveReading4Kids | Eva Eland has a way with pictures and words that, although deceptively simple, actually deals with the big matters of life in a very accessible and encouraging way. Her previous book When Sadness Comes to Call gained many outstandingly positive reviews and this follow up book on happiness is going to get the same response. Very expressive, clear illustrations in mainly blues and a wonderful fluorescent pink make this a happy experience to read. Eland looks at the ways we may chase happiness or happiness may just creep up on us but finishes with the phrase ‘Happiness begins with you.’ Definitely a book for classrooms, libraries and PHSE lessons – it will encourage empathy as children start to understand their own and the emotions of others, as well as being a satisfying book to read.
‘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.
February 2021 Book of the Month | Old Macdonald had a phone, e-i-e-i-o. Very useful it is too, helping him get organised and run the farm. But then he drops it in the lake, and when ordering a replacement, accidentally buys 100. The animals all take one, and chaos ensues. They are all so busy on their phones – here a tweet, there a chat – that nothing gets done and Old Macdonald has no milk, or eggs to sell. Fortunately, he finds a solution, and everyone lives happily – a chat-chat here, and a selfie there, but not all day – that seems fair! It’s another clever, very funny cautionary tale for our online times from the brilliant duo of Willis and Ross. The rhymes make it bliss to read aloud, and the illustrations are a spritely delight. Funny, clever and we can all learn from it – what more could you ask? Smiley face. Look out too for the other books in this fabulous series, Chicken Clicking, Troll Stinks and #Goldilocks.
January 2021 Book of the Month | Worries – they’re easy to acquire and then, before you know it, they’ve taken over and are with you all the time, interrupting your fun, spoiling playtime, keeping you awake at night. Don’t worry though, help is at hand. The little boy in this story takes his Worry to a Worry Expert who has lots of advice and suggestions that successfully send the Worry away, even though it has got really big. The Worry is portrayed as a colourful, lively scribble, cheerful and smiling though clearly a real pest. The approach taken will help children prone to worrying feel they’re not alone and the Worry Expert’s advice will work for everyone. Written in a fluid rhyming text and with bold, child-friendly illustrations, this is a great book to share and will be really helpful for anxious children. You can find more books on this theme in our Anxiety & Wellbeing collection.
Selected for The Book Box by LoveReading4Kids | Longlisted for the UKLA Book Awards 2021 | The fragility of life underpins this heart-warming story from the start. Louie was born prematurely “a pitiful, scrawny, struggling thing”. Newcomer Nora lost a premature baby brother and this experience has left her anxious and slow to trust. The two children bond over Winslow, a frail orphaned baby donkey, not expected to survive, whom Louie adopts despite his poor track record with saving bugs, worms or goldfish. For both, saving the adorable Winslow helps them to feel less powerless about underlying anxieties, such as Louie’s fears for his beloved brother serving in the army who now signs his infrequent letters “remember me”. Carnegie medal winning Creech packs a real emotional punch into so few words of beautifully spare prose. This short novel would be an ideal read aloud with delightfully humorous scenes as Winslow grows stronger (and louder) as well as great pathos and a dramatic and satisfying climax. It is set in an unspecified past and would be a wonderful companion read to Charlotte’s Web or Eva Ibbotson’s One Dog and His Boy and is as deserving of classic status.
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.
Following the critically acclaimed Stepsister, this is the Carnegie medal winning authors second ‘ feminist’ fairytale and one that could not be more pertinent to our times. The heart is a powerful symbol and princess Sophie has continually been told that she is too weak, too kind-hearted, too emotional to ever be queen. This is the ‘poison’ which has been constantly dripped into her ear sapping her confidence and self-belief. So far, so familiar, but what makes this tale so psychologically engrossing is that we see the effect of ‘poison’ on the wicked stepmother too. The author refuses to believe that an all-powerful queen would really be bothered by the trifling concerns of beauty and the question to the mirror becomes ‘who will bring about my fall?’ Adelaide is herself the victim of patriarchy and a cruel childhood and it is the King of Crows, the embodiment of Fear, that speaks to her from the mirror and manipulates the attacks on Sophie. With the familiar elements of the fairy tale fleshed out and the alternative 17th century Germanic setting vividly peopled by creatures both whimsical and deadly and with marvellous new characters like Will the archer and Arno the grave robber to educate Sophie about social justice and to support her quest to become the true queen to protect her people, this is a hugely engrossing and beautifully written tale. Its message that kindness and love have the power to defeat cruelty and pain empowers all girls to value their own strength and to let no one’s poisonous words destroy them. Highly recommended.
How to Take Your Place in the World | Teacher, writer, fashion icon and activist, Sinéad Burke, also happens to be a little person. This is her preferred description and one for which there were no words in the Irish language and as she recounts here, she wrote to Fóras na Gaelige, the organisation that oversees the development of the language, and 'duine beag' is now in the dictionary. This is just one example of how Sinéad approaches her life - not being defined or dictated to by the perceptions and assumptions of others. Disability is not a lack of anything, it is a difference and we are all different and unique and must make the most of our lives and our dreams. The friendly and informal presentation of the personal anecdotes, other real-life stories and calls to action are matched by the non-patronising tone of the writing. Children and young people will respond to the honesty, respect, warmth and empathy she shows her readers. The contents encourage every individual to value themselves and to think about their strengths and the things they can do better and then look at how they can make a difference to the world. It will of course make every reader see the world as it might appear to people who are different and the challenges this brings and inspire them to want to make the world a more accessible place. While it is particularly empowering for those living with differences to see themselves reflected in a book, this is an important message for every child and every child (and the adults who care for them) will benefit from reading it. A very necessary purchase for every parent and every school library.
October 2020 Debut of the Month | Full of a sense of tenderness but also possibilities, Songs for our Sons contains every wish you could have for a young boy growing up today, from ‘Never change, fib or follow, just to try to fit in./Be proud, free and happy in your own, unique skill’, to ‘Keep a still place inside, that you can call home/ and know how to find it, wherever your roam.’ The text is touching, heartfelt and always uplifting, while Ashling Lindsay’s illustrations depict children playing in a range of settings, from green fields to desert cities and magic trees, bold colours and shifting perspectives making every turn of the page an adventure. Giving this and receiving it, both will be a real joy.
Bethan Woollvin won the Macmillan Children’s Book Competition with her first book Little Red and has since produced some wonderfully engaging picture books all looking at elements of traditional fairy tales. I Can Catch a Monster is the story of Erik, Ivar and Bo who live in a land of forests and monsters. Erik and Ivar set off to catch some monsters for themselves, leaving their sister Bo behind as she is ‘too small’. Bo knows she is smart and brave, so she sets off to hunt her own monster. The monsters Bo meets are varied and include a Griffin, a Kraken and a dragon – but rather than fight them (as she knows her brothers will try) she learns something from each of them and becomes the centre of humanity in the book. This picture book tells the story in a series of illustrations which give the impression of being made in old printmaking techniques using a limited palette of colours which emphasizes the bold, simple illustrations used throughout. As one might hope– Bo turns out to be bold, to have more understanding of the natural world – and to be a brave female role model for the readers. This simple take on traditional quest tales will be a favourite – and provides a lovely counterpoint for the old tales with all their slaying and death! Bethan was once asked to describe her books in three words – she chose ‘bold, dark and sneaky’ *– this is most definitely all of those but also delightful and endearing – do read it!
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.
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