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Hilary Robinson is an award winning radio producer and author of over 50 picture books. Awards include the 2016 Historical Young Quills Award for ‘Flo of the Somme.’ Radio credits include Private Peaceful for BBC Radio 2 and her series for Barry Humphries Forgotten Musical Masterpieces was listed as one of the top 30 artistic triumphs of 2016 by the Telegraph. Extracts from her book 'A Song For Will and the Lost Gardeners of Heligan' were read on BBC Radio 4. Follow her on Instagram here.
Read a Q&A with the author here.
February 2020 Book of the Month | Charlie Tanner’s dog Jasper thinks he’s descended from Viking dogs and is determined to find out more. This sparks a series of very funny letters from Charlie to the curator at the local Viking museum, in which Charlie poses questions from Jasper. In fact, questions and answers tell us lots about Viking life and the unusual and ingenious presentation makes it all extremely readable and accessible. A great way to learn about the Vikings. Jasper has explored space for readers too, and it looks he has more adventures to come, which is good news.
April 2019 Book of the Month | A Julia Eccleshare Pick of the Month April 2019 | Fifty years since the moon landing and a new generation want to know all about it! Written in letters from Charlie Tanner, an enquiring eight year old and his enthusiastic and easily excitable hound Jasper to a Rocket Scientist, Jasper Space Dog is a clever mix of fun and facts. Charlie and Jasper’s letters raise many of the questions that everyone wonders about such as Is the moon made of cheese? and Is there a man on the moon and does he have a dog? The Rocket Scientist’s simple answers give the true scientific details in an easily accessible form. There’s much to enjoy as well as much to learn from this introduction to an important topic. Have a look at our Ambassador Book Buzz for Jasper: Space Dog.
March 2018 Book of the Month | Beautifully illustrated and with a touching rhyming text this is another excellent book to give young children a real sense of World War One. Lily, Ben and Ray are childhood friends, spending long summer days playing together in the fields and woods round their homes. They grow up into war however, Ben and Ray sign up leaving Lily at home. Soon she is too at the front however as a nurse at Passchendaele. There she is reunited with her old friend Ben. The story gently demonstrates the extraordinary courage and resilience shown by ordinary people in such a terrible situation, skilfully bringing the past to life through personal stories. There are echoes of the war poets in the text and the illustrations have a timeless feel.
One of Our Books of the Year 2017 | May 2017 Book of the Month | | This deeply moving story perfectly conveys the devastating impact of the First World War both on those who took part and those they left behind. Though the story is fiction, many of those who feature were real people, gardeners at what became known after their deaths as the Lost Gardens of Heligan. The story is narrated by Alfie, who is too young to sign up, and conveyed through his letters to and from the young men who worked alongside him in the gardens and who joined the forces. The letters describe simply but vividly the realities of life at home and at the front, optimism and enthusiasm giving way to shock and grief. We particularly feel for Will who was so kind and gentle, and whose absence is mourned by animal as well as human friends. Beautifully told and illustrated, this is a book for children and adults to treasure. Line of Fire by Barroux gives another first-hand account of the war in words and pictures.
Winner of the 2016 Historical Association’s ‘Young Quill’s Award for Historical Fiction’ (primary school category) | One of our Books of the Year 2015 | | The stories of the many animals involved in the First World War make a great way to explain to children the sacrifices made by the soldiers: the animals had no choice but to take part, had no nationality, and children can quickly identify with them. Flo is a Mercy dog, one of those trained to find the wounded and dying on battlefields and sent out with medical supplies. Her story is told in rhyme, building through repetition ( like This is the house that Jack Built) from ‘This is Flo, a hero of war/A mercy dog that saved lives’ until the full story emerges, of pilots shot down and then saved by the Medical Corps, with the help of a messenger pigeon, a donkey and of course Flo. The illustrations are full of details to inspire discussion, and a moving story of peace and reconciliation emerges.
Written and illustrated with warmth, humour and sensitivity, this excellent book, part of the Copper Tree Class series, tackles the subject of family break-up. Hana is confused and upset because her parents are going to live separately, and all the children in class notice how sad she is. Their teacher Mr Davis finds a way to explain the situation to her – and to readers – in a way that shows clearly that it’s not her fault, and that life will get better. He uses sunflower seeds too to show that Hana will grow and be happy, and find her place in the world no matter what. It’s a clever, reassuring way of talking about a subject relevant to very many children.
Shortlisted for the Education Resources Award 2015 | Amid the horror of the fighting in the First World War, there was one moment of unexpected and surprising harmony. On Christmas Eve 1914 the soldiers from opposing sides of No Man’s Land joined together in the singing of a carol. Stille Nacht was begun by the German soldiers; Silent Night followed as the British soldiers joined in. The next day, weapons were laid down and the two sides played an impromptu game of football. In a simple and well-phrased text and evocative illustrations this moment of truce is finely captured.
Shortlisted for the Education Resources Award 2015 - One of our Books of the Year 2014 | Shortlisted for the Education Resources Award 2015 - One of our Books of the Year 2014 This moving poetic text matched with warm-hearted illustrations captures the lives of two friends and the parts they played in the enormous military campaign of the First World War. From their early days playing together through to their old age they shared everything. Above all, as young men they courageously shared the danger and devastation of the war which took place on their very own land. The result is a book that reflects the lasting importance of both friendship and place and how they can help to heal the tragedy of war.
The story of a school hamster provides a sensitive and effective way of talking about adoption in the third of the excellent Copper Tree Class series of picture books. Henry the class hamster has returned to school after the summer holidays with four babies! Alfie Tate, who’s usually at the centre of any class mischief, is particularly concerned about the babies and wants to find them all good homes. Alfie is adopted and though he can’t remember if he was sad before he was adopted as a baby, he thinks he might have been. With Alfie on the case the babies soon have homes of their own and he himself takes in the smallest of the litter, Alfonzo. An enjoyable story that gently raises important issues.
Get into the Spirit of Christmas! The children of Copper Tree class are getting ready for Christmas when an invitation arrives to visit the residents of the Pine Lodge care home. The children think of all the different things they like to do that might entertain the old people and have a very happy day out spent singing, storytelling, putting up home-made decorations and dressing up. It’s a lovely story, guaranteed to bring a smile to everyone’s face – cheeky Alfie Tate even finds a donkey to take! It also gently teaches children about the elderly, and shows them that the different generations have got much more in common than they might have thought.
This excellent picture book deals sensitively and truthfully with the subject of bereavement. When their teacher Miss Evans isn’t well and can’t come to school, her class maker her a get well card, even Alfie Tate who’s nearly always causing trouble. She comes to see their play and though she’s lost her hair and has to use a wheelchair, she smiles all the time. Not long after that, another teacher Mr Davis tells them that Miss Evans has died. It’s alright to feel sad, he says, or angry. The children make remember notes and transfer them onto copper leaves for a copper tree dedicated to Miss Evans. The leaves are bright and beautiful in the sunshine, just like she was. A gentle way of showing how memories remain to comfort and console.