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The books in this section cover a range of PSHE topics including bullying, disability, family issues, divorce and adoption. There are both fiction and non-fiction titles and cover age ranges from Toddler to Older Teen.
Selected for The Book Box by LoveReading4Kids | 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.
Interest Age 8+ Reading Age 8 | November 2020 Book of the Month | Tom McLaughlin’s new story stars a royal family, but as you’ve never imagined them before! When hapless Bertie, the Queen’s brother, gambles away their entire estate on a game of Happy Families, the whole family are turfed out. It seems no-one is particularly sorry to see them go either, they’ve been stuck-up, selfish and entitled. Life in their new home in King Street, Windsor takes some getting used to, but mixing with the hoi-polloi, aka their new neighbours, teaches the former royals to be much nicer people (as well as giving them a taste for Pot Noodle). It’s delightfully silly and very funny, but actually full of useful life lessons too. Published by Barrington Stoke, this is accessible to all readers including those reluctant, struggling or dyslexic.
A beautifully illustrated story, written with a light and humorous touch, that celebrates nontraditional families and captures exactly what lies at the heart of family life - love. 'Elvi, which one is your mum?' 'They're both my mum.' 'But which one's your real mum?' When Nicholas wants to know which of Elvi's two mums is her real mum, she gives him lots of clues. Her real mum is a circus performer, and a pirate, and she even teaches spiders the art of web. But Nicholas still can't work it out! Luckily, Elvi knows just how to explain it to her friend.
October 2020 Debut of the Month | At once a moving adventure and a thrilling multi-layered mystery, Kereen Getten’s dazzling debut When Life Gives You Mangoes is set in the close-knit community of Sycamore Hill, Jamaica, where Clara spends her days playing ‘pick leaf’, having fun at the river and avoiding the wrath of moody Ms Gee. She used to love surfing, but now she’s scared of the sea and she can’t remember why. In fact, Clara can’t remember anything about last summer. She also can’t explain why her best friend Gaynah is being mean to her, and no one will tell her why Pastor Brown has turned the entire town against her Uncle Eldorath. Despite these unsettling mysteries, the superbly-evoked Sycamore Hill is a steady kind of place. In Clara’s words, “You live and you die here. No one leaves and no one new comes in. Sometimes that’s a good thing because you know everyone, and everyone knows you. Other times you get tired of seeing the same faces and want something new.” And then something new happens in the form of Rudy, a cool, confident girl from Britain who turns out to be Ms Gee’s granddaughter. At Rudy’s arrival, “the entire village is buzzing. This is the most excitement we have ever had,” and it’s not long before the girls strike up a beautiful bond. Soon enough, Clara is enjoying escapades her parents wouldn’t entirely approve of because “there is something magnetic about Rudy and her adventures.” As Clara’s memory begins to return in tempestuous flashbacks, hurricane season brings a devastating storm that coincides with everything changing - truths are laid bare, ghosts are laid to rest, and a new landscape is left in the wake of the upheavals. Poignant on friendship, family and community, in all their tricky, complicated, life-affirming forms, this Middle Grade wonder also makes pertinent reference to police prejudice in the UK. “Where I live...there are some bad kids, but there are a lot more good kids, but the police think we’re all the same,” Rudy remarks. Clara’s huge-hearted story had me hooked and charmed from start to finish.
A Julia Eccleshare Pick of the Month July 2020 | A class trip to the art gallery inspires Luna and her friends in all kinds of ways. Seeing the amazing pictures by Cezanne, Matisse, Van Gogh and many more they are transported into other worlds and given the opportunity to savour the colours and textures of some of the world’s greatest paintings. They are also encouraged to create their own pictures inspired by the range of images they see and the stories they tell. Luna loves the art - and loves sharing it with her mum who is a helper on the trip. But for some, the experience is more challenging. Can Luna help Finn engage with what he sees and find a way of expressing his feelings? She can and the day ends happily for all. Readers will love this introduction to art as enjoyed by Luna and her classmates.
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+
Longlisted for the UKLA Book Awards 2021 | March 2020 Debut of the Month | This debut novel was inspired by the author’s work creating Run the World, an organisation that empowers women and girls from marginalised backgrounds through sport and storytelling and the authenticity of this, at times harrowing story, is palpably evident. As is the skill of the accomplished writing which makes great use of typography and layout to really make every word count. This speeds the reader through the narrative, but it also cuts deep to reveal the emotions experienced by our narrator. Amber Rai is only ‘truly alive’ when running and shows great potential. But her alcoholic, abusive, misogynistic father refuses to allow her on the track. She has seen her older sister Ruby denied university and married off against her will and her downtrodden, abused mother is literally powerless to help, trapped as much by illiteracy and lack of English as the violence of her equally illiterate, unemployed husband. Amber has friends and teachers who believe in her, but she cannot explain what really goes on at home. She is a complex and believable character with very real flaws that she painfully recognises: ‘inflicting pain on others/halves your own hurt’. But the story is cleverly structured on The Anatomy of a Revolution and inspired by her reading about revolutions for history, Amber, Ruby and her mother gradually empower each other to take small steps to freedom. This is an important, rewarding, highly empathetic read which, despite the dark subject matter, offers hope but no simplistic solutions.
Rachel Rooney, well known award-winning poet, and Zehra Hicks have created a positive way of looking at the everyday problems of children and how to deal with them. The problems are all given a brightly coloured physical form to help children see them for what they are - and look at ways to deal with them. The gently rhyming text suggests ways to deal with the problem, and that sharing a problem is a way to help dispose of it. A lovely way to tackle a sometimes difficult subject in a way that will appeal to many children. Keep it in your classroom for those awkward moments when you can see a child is struggling and helpful to parents with an anxious child at home.
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.
Winner of the UKLA Book Awards 2020 | Susin Nielsen’s new novel features unforgettable central characters, and is beautifully written; her ear for dialogue – young teen to teen, young teen to parent, young teen to emergency services – pitch perfect. Despite being a story of homelessness and poverty, it will leave readers cheered and thoroughly reassured about the strength and resilience of the human spirit. Twelve-year old Felix lives with his mother Astrid, only rarely seeing his dad. Astrid has a flexible attitude to truth and Felix has developed a chart to measure the lies she tells as they navigate their lives. These range from ‘the invisible lie’, through the ‘no-one gets hurt’ to the biggest, the ‘someone might lose an eye’ lie. As they struggle to cope living in a (stolen) camper van, Astrid uses her panoply of lies to the full and Felix reluctantly goes along with it, ready to support his mother even when it’s really difficult. Nielsen gives him good friends, and a talent for memorising facts, both of which help to set up a better future for him. Both painful and funny, this is a book that will have readers alternatively shouting at its central characters, and cheering them on.
January 2020 Debut of the Month | There’s love, friendship and challenging prejudice aplenty in this debut novel by a LGBTQ+ parenting expert. Introverted Izzy has just started Year 8 and is wildly excited when her favourite teacher announces auditions for a Christmas production of Guys and Dolls. Though shy, she’s come to love acting because on stage she “could be whoever I wanted.” And Izzy’s not the only member of her family who wants - and needs - to be who they really are, as she discovers when her dad tells the family he’s transgender and is about to begin transitioning. Though he gently explains, “It’s nothing to be ashamed of, it’s nothing dirty, I’m not ill”, Izzy’s older sister reacts angrily, her little brother accepts it in the same way he understands Spider Man and Peter Parker’s different identities, while Izzy feels quiet worry about how their lives will change. The family’s journey is honestly and sensitively portrayed as they endure hurtful prejudice alongside many heart-melting moments, such as the gorgeous scene in which the three siblings think-up their new name for Dad. This is at once an important support tool for children in similar situations, and a barrier-breaking, empathy-inducing story for all.
Twice winner of the Carnegie Medal, Berlie Doherty is one of our finest writers for young people and Deep Secret is a beautifully told story of people, place, changing times and lasting memories. At its heart are two young girls, identical twins Grace and Madeleine, but it’s just as much the story of their community, the people of a small Derbyshire village. It’s 1945, a time of change for the whole country but particularly for the characters in the book: the valley in which they live is to be flooded for a reservoir and they must all leave their homes. Even before the waters arrive, stories float to the surface and we learn so much about the people of the valley and their history. It’s a wonderfully touching description of a lost way of life, and when a tragic event occurs drama and pain follows before finally acceptance and understanding. This is the kind of story that resonates with readers long after the final page, and highly recommended.