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Rashmi Sirdeshpande is a lawyer turned children's author, with two young children who ask her lots of questions. Rashmi writes non-fiction picture books that ignite children's curiosity, as well as fictional stories that crackle with imagination. When she's not playing with words, you'll find her on her yoga mat twisting herself into all sort of shapes.
Photo credit Charlotte Knee
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.
Following the success of her debut book How to be Extraordinary, which focused on inspiring children to be the very best that they can be, this important companion title shows the impact of people working together and what results they can thereby achieve. Once again this demonstrates that the author has a real gift for narrative nonfiction making these true stories really come to life with the selection of salient facts and lucid explanations setting the scene and explaining the issues so very clearly. The fifteen stories range from the origins of democracy in Ancient Greece and the mystery of just how the skilled workers of Ancient Egypt built The Great Pyramid to famous and not so famous campaigns for change. So alongside Greenpeace and Save the Whale we have the lesser known Tree Planters of Pipilantre and as well as the Montgomery Bus Boycott, we have the Singing Revolution in Estonia and as well as the Anti- Slavery Campaign we have the 1965 Freedom Ride campaigning for justice for indigenous people in Australia. There is also an obvious care taken to ensure the examples are as international as possible so the campaign for voting equality for women is not solely focused on the UK. The lively layout and illustrations make this an irresistible text for library browsers with appeal across many ages and the quality of the writing makes it one that would read aloud very well. Highly recommended.
How to Earn It, Save It, Spend It, Grow It, Give It | Given that we are looking down the barrel of the worst recession since records began, this book could not be more topical, or of more interest to young people and will no doubt teach adults, like me, a thing or two (about Bitcoin for example!). The author tells us she loves to take big ideas and make them accessible and she has fulfilled that ambition with flying colours and created a book that should be in every school as an invaluable tool for teaching financial literacy. There have been many books which have covered the history and origins of money, but nothing which has dealt so clearly with the ‘why it matters’ and encouraged us to think about needs versus wants, the concept of value and, even more importantly, why it matters how you use your money and how you can use it to do good. When you have successfully grown your money it also explains why you should give some of it away. Brilliantly illustrated and designed with ‘in a nutshell’ sections and quizzes, real life stories and a lively, witty and accessible style that explains, but never patronises and uses examples that make sense in a children’s world. So, for example, when you understand the ‘superhero sweetie’ of compound interest, you will never make the common error of picking a ‘1 million today’ prize instead of ‘1p which doubles every day’ (making 5.3 million in just 30 days) Perfectly pitched yet sophisticated and challenging enough to intrigue teens as well as tweens, this is a superb information text that I cannot recommend highly enough.
Each of the 15 subjects selected for this collection gets a lively, well-designed, double-paged spread with bite sized and accessible chunks of information about the life and career of each extraordinary individual. These range from the familiar – David Attenborough, Michelle Obama, Nelson Mandela, Mo Farrer etc- to those that were completely new to me and, I am sure, to most young readers! These include Britain’s first female spy- Krystyna Skabarek; Aeham Ahmad, the pianist of Yarmouk and Keiko Fukuda Sensei, who became the only woman to be awarded the 10th Dan in Judo at the age of 98! The illustrations by Annabel Tempest are very effective in capturing both time and place as well as the character and emotions of the individual. Written by a graduate of the Penguin Random House WriteNow scheme, which endeavours to ensure that books and authors better reflect the society we live in, this is a rich resource for KS1 libraries and classrooms. It will support the study of lives of significant individuals in the past and show good examples of resilience and positive role models. It is a book which will be dipped into and read with pleasure but lack of contents or index means that it is less useful as a research tool. But this is an author to watch: one whose evident passion for writing information texts which are set to ignite curiosity in young readers shines through.