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The books in this section cover a range of PSHE topics including family issues, grief and books that can help children come to terms with the loss of a friend or family member. There are both fiction and non-fiction titles and cover age ranges from Toddler to Older Teen.
Burning with the fires of hope and possibility, As Long As The Lemon Trees Grow will sweep you up and never let you go. Salama Kassab was a pharmacy student when the cries for freedom broke out in Syria. She still had her parents and her big brother; she still had her home. She was even supposed to be meeting a boy to talk about marriage. Now Salama volunteers at a hospital in Homs, helping the wounded who flood through the doors. She knows that she should be thinking about leaving, but who will help the people of her beloved country if she doesn't? With her heart so conflicted, her mind has conjured a vision to spur her to action. His name is Khawf, and he haunts her nights with hallucinations of everything she has lost. But even with Khawf pressing her to leave, when she crosses paths with Kenan, the boy she was supposed to meet on that fateful day, she starts to doubt her resolve in leaving home at all. Soon, Salama must learn to see the events around her for what they truly are-not a war, but a revolution-and decide how she, too, will cry for Syria's freedom.
When Brie was younger, her mama used to surprise her with treasure hunts around their island town. After she died three years ago, these became Brie's most cherished memories. Now, on her twelfth birthday, her mama has another surprise: a series of letters leading Brie on one last treasure hunt. The first letter guides Brie to a special place. The next urges her to unlock a secret. And the last letter will change her life forever.
Blessed with the poetic honesty and sense of nature that made We Were Wolves such a triumph, Jason Cockcroft’s Running with Horses is tells hauntingly affecting story of loss, love, recovering from trauma, and the magic of nature and friendship bonds. It’s a raw and beautiful book that lingers long, enhanced by illustrations that evoke the menace and emotional turmoil of the protagonist’s journey. Rabbit has been overwhelmed by guilt and grief since the day he saw his father die, so his mum has moved them to a new place by the sea. Rabbit’s dad always said “there are two sorts of truth. There’s the truth that Lights the Way, and there’s the truth that Warms the Heart. Well, if you ask me there’s a third sort — the truth that you have to get out no matter what. That’s the truth I’m going to tell, because it’s the only one I know. And my truth starts and ends with Joe Fludde’s smile.” Joe and Rabbit have a gloriously special bond. Brutally bullied by his older brother, like Rabbit, Joe is a “Troubled Soul”, as was Rabbit’s dad. “A bit of a dreamer”, Rabbit’s father “said the world was full of ancient animals and magic, and we were just passing by”. As a result, Rabbit’s haunting dreams of a white horse make him feel connected to his dad, a feeling that’s heightened when Joe says he’ll take Rabbit to see a dead horse he’s discovered. But in place of the horse, the boys find a man and become embroiled in criminal activities that are perilously close to home. With an urgent inferno of a climax suffused in magic and nature, the best of humanity glints through destructive flames to create a powerfully memorable story. In keeping with Rabbit’s dad’s words, Running with Horses brims with truths that light the way and warm the heart, and, chiming with Rabbit’s words, it’s also alive with truths about loss and love that must be told, no matter what.
An intriguing, thoughtful and poignant exploration of what makes us ‘us’ that explores grief with a deft and gentle touch. A coming-of-age story with an incidental LGBTQ relationship and a technological twist. Exploring social media, memory and identity, there are lots of discussion points for readers. Perfect for fans of Show Us Who You Are, A Pocketful of Stars and Troofriend.
Haunted by her mother’s death, and now uprooted from Limerick to a rural village, 18-year-old Saoirse is desperate to leave school and start her life afresh. Her tremendously tough journey through guilt and anxiety - quite brilliantly related with raw compassion by Helena Close - makes for an engaging, thought-provoking, moving read that sheds light on the realities of depression while offering honest glimmers of hope. Just ahead of sitting her sitting the Leaving Certificate, Saoirse’s ex-boyfriend commits suicide. It’s no secret that she cheated on him with his best friend, and she’s cast out by her peers. Devastated by guilt, grief and feeling isolated, her counselling sessions do little to help. Yet even as she descends into the darkest clutches of depression, Saoirse shines as a wise and witty young woman. She sees people for who they are, beyond her years, with her narrative casting a glaring light on the reality of attitudes to depression: “You are not allowed to be sad. People have no tolerance to sad. You can be Insta sad – sad because you saw pictures of dying refugees or abandoned puppies. You can’t be ongoing sad.. You can’t be scared or anxious or upset”. As everything becomes too much for Saoirse, she’s taken to a psychiatric hospital. Though painful, her journey to regaining herself is powerfully raw and touched by hope, with the wider cast of true-to-life characters (from Saoirse’s siblings and peers, to her straight-talking, gin-swilling grandmother) adding to the enlivening authenticity.
May 2022 Debut of the Month | Rejoice, lovers of frank and funny diary stories, you have a treat awaiting! Fifteen-and-a-half-year-old Ellery Brown, an American mostly living in Ireland, is starting a diary, addressed to the reader, her non-judgemental friend. Ellery’s mum, a successful writer of popular fiction, has recently died and the diary is supposed to help Ellery write about her feelings. However, it soon becomes a record of her efforts to identify her father. Her mother never revealed his name, but Ellery and best friend Meg decide there are clues on her mother’s bookshelves. As Ellery tracks down three successful male authors, any of whom could be the one, the story gets wilder and funnier by the page. Add to this the joy of her relationship with the equally wonderful Meg, her eccentric family, and other players, including romantic interest and lamb-whisperer Silent Johnny, and the book brims over with reasons to love it. It will make you laugh, it will make you cry, and it will make you wish you had a friend like Ellery. Definitely one to recommend to fans of Geek Girl or Georgia Nicolson.
Interest Age 8+ Reading Age 8 | Navigating family tragedy and finding the freedom to follow your dreams, Eve Ainsworth’s All to Play For is a perfectly-pitched, top of the league triumph for readers who enjoy the thrilling possibilities of dreaming big through stories rooted in real-life. Lewis’ “happy place” is the narrow strip of grass at the back of his estate. Here he can “pretend to be somebody else”, like his football hero scoring a winner for England at Wembley. Lewis needs this escape because real life is tough. His family don’t have much money and, “even if she could afford it, Mum would never let him play football. Not after what happened to his dad”. Tragically, Lewis’ father died when his weak heart failed during a match, and his mum blames the beautiful game for taking her beautiful husband. After being spotted by Ash, a scout for his dad’s former team, Lewis is faced with a dilemma - training with the club would mean disobeying Mum, so he tries to convince her to let him join. Tackling grief and social inequalities with sensitivity, All to Play For is a rewarding read, with all the heart-in-your-mouth tension of a penalty shoot-out. Readers will be on the edge of their seats willing Lewis to succeed, willing his mum to support his dream. Published by Barrington Stoke, this is especially ideal for reluctant readers, with satisfying short chapters and dyslexia-friendly paper.
April 2022 Book of the Month | Bea, her big sister Riley and their mum have moved from London to stay with their gran in a small country town. All three are looking for escape after the sudden death of the girls’ father. Just before he died, the family attended London Pride – Riley had just come out as gay – and memories of a colourful, joyful day have taken on a special significance. As she starts to make friends, Bea is ever more conscious of her sister’s sadness, until she suddenly realises there is a way to bring Riley out of herself. Now the only obstacle is the town’s resident busy-body and general ‘do-badder’. It’s surprising what you can achieve though when everyone accepts one another and works as a team. As sunny and cheering as the rainbow design on its sprayed edges, this is a story that recognises the importance of standing up for what you know is right, and for others. In its depiction of grief and depression, it strikes just the right note and delivers a message of inclusivity and tolerance with the lightest touch.
March 2022 Book of the Month | At its core, Darren Simpson’s Furthermoor is a heartfelt, pacey quest that tells of a boy’s struggle to find a way through grief and bullying. Poignantly underpinned by a comforting belief that loved ones we’ve lost never truly leave us, this highly readable fantasy-meets-real-world novel sees a broken family coming together. Ever since Bren’s sister Evie was killed in a car crash, he’s isolated himself from everyone. He spends his days at school trying to avoid truly atrocious bullies, and in place of playing football with his mates in his free time, he’s retreated into Furthermoor, a weird world of mechanical animals, where Evie is still alive. Bren feels safe in Furthermoor, until Featherley flits onto the scene, a strange creature who speaks uncomfortable truths and compels Bren to confront his fears: “You’re letting yourself down, young fleshling. A master in this realm, a runt in the other.” In a Coraline-esque turn of events, Furthermoor infiltrates the real world (“This wasn’t home. This was Furthermoor”) and a gripping race against time unfolds. The plotting is sharp, with clear cliff-hanger chapter endings signposting the dangers that lie ahead, and an empowering message about bravery ringing clear. In Evie’s words, “Bravery isn’t always big and loud, Bren. It can be quiet too.”
This author illustrator has proved himself a master of the interplay between words and images and deploys these so skilfully to depict emotions in a way that enables young readers to get a better understanding of the feelings enveloping them. In contrast to the grey urban landscape depicted in the acclaimed The Invisible, we have here a beautiful rural landscape where Rowan is so happy exploring and playing. We are told that Rowan particularly loves the river and how it could be calm, playful or even angry, just like him. But one year there was a particularly cruel winter and although the words do not refer to it, the poignant vignettes depict the now empty dog basket. The river, unseasonably remaining frozen, represents Rowan’s grief and his inability to find any joy in life without his beloved pet. There is no need for the text to describe that, the images say it all. But the nature around him eventually breaks through when he notices, rescues and heals a little bird and again, a beautiful series of vignettes show Rowan growing, feeling and changing over time just like the river and just like the river, he remains and goes on. Subtle, beautiful and thought provoking.
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. We have more books on this theme in our collection, Books to Explain Death to Children & Help them Grieve.
Erin's daddy sees the colour in everything. Even on the greyest days, they put on their wellies and go splashing in puddles because, Daddy says, 'We can't see rainbows without rain!' But what happens when the greyest day of all comes, and Daddy isn't there any more? Can Erin learn to find colour in the world again? This deeply sensitive picture book about the loss of a parent is the ideal starting point for conversations about love, loss and learning to live again.