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Children are keen to learn about the world about them, who makes the laws, how they are governed and the philosophies and ethics that affect our country and the people who hold power. Learn more about citizenship and our political system with the books in this special section.
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 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.
What a great little book and a wonderful way of explaining democracy and the intricacies of the voting system: Perfectly timed for the American Presidential Elections. What was so clever was Valdez’s ability to explain whilst still maintaining an interesting and fun children’s story. There were also other messages running through the story, such as loyalty to one’s friends and peer rivalry within a classroom. I also liked learning about Mexican cookery with the odd baking tip thrown in for good measure! Managing to explain the freedom of information, fake news and what a boycott is to such young children is quite a feat. I think her quote, ‘never a perfect candidate in an election. How could there be? People aren’t perfect’ was particularly poignant. I think my favourite message however was ‘read, question, think’ – a message for life for all of us. A clever informative book with some great illustrations by David Roberts.
Beautifully told and illustrated this luminous allegorical adventure describes how one little girl’s dark and lonely existence is lit up by the arrival of ‘one spark’ in the form of a book – ‘faint and fading in the dark’. The spark’s embers glow and catch light and we see the girl follow them through an extraordinary world, brightened always by books, falling Alice in Wonderland-like from the sky, sprouting flowers and always shining in the dark. Enrolled at school, her heart’s delight, her story takes flight again from the pages of a book to transform another lonely girl’s life. There’s lots to wonder at, but the overall message is clear – the transforming, empowering, joy-bringing importance of books and education. The rhyming text carries readers along and the illustrations seem lit up from within. A book that deserves a wide audience and one that will start both dreams and discussions. For similar books take a look at Girl Power - Inspiring and Informative Books with a Feminist Edge
Eric and Terry Fan are renowned author illustrators with such gems as The Night Gardener and the Kate Greenaway shortlisted Ocean Meets Sky. For this collaboration they have been joined by brother Devin for the first time. Stunningly beautiful images are what we have come to expect, and this is no exception. The enticing, mysterious cover spotlights a little creature in a bell jar. Beneath the jacket the cover looks like a blackboard covered with code, double helixes and creature sketches. The endpapers are design files to start and shelves of completed products at the end. We know then that this is about creating things. We meet our little creature again and we are shown the contrast between the naturalistic wold and an ordinary shop – Perfect Pets- on an ordinary street, but far below there is an underground world and a laboratory where they make the perfect pets and where they put the Failed Projects like Barnabus. Alerted of impending recycling doom, by his friend Patrick the cockroach, who has been entrancing him with stories of the natural world above, Barnabus and fellow Failed Projects work together on a daring and thrilling escape and find refuge hiding in plain sight in a nearby park. Being a team and supporting each other is crucial to their success. A multi-layered story that will appeal to a wide range of ages and prompt much discussion and debate about ethics and freedom. In a world where young people are constantly bombarded with social media that promotes artificial standards of perfection, this empowering fable has an important message to share.
A new approach to behaviour management | A book packed with sound advice and made more relevant because the writers are teachers and have put their advice into action. Evidence based practice is always the best. There are so many useful phrases and practical tips and quotes. Phrases like ‘never leave a child with no where to go, behaviourally or educationally’, or ‘a burnt-out teacher cannot foster positive relationships’ and the ‘importance of personal space’ are particularly memorable examples. The style is informal and chatty and clearly laid out. I like the key ‘learning point’ boxes at the end of each chapter and the interesting examples of successes had with previous pupils. On occasions however, the examples are a little too lengthy and a little too personal. Whilst not prudish in any way, I did not think the swear words added much to the narrative or the over personalisation of ‘Steve’ or ‘Mick’ in the chapter overviews. Whilst I respected the scientific research that had gone into the reasons behind why children behave as they do, I think it would be fair to say that most educators want solutions and answers. Not because they do not care or are not interested in the science, but because they just do not have the time. For me, the interesting chapters were those that provided solutions to situations and offered practical help to real life scenarios. There were certainly many useful, thought provoking messages and theories throughout the book that we can all learn from.
Love Yourself and Grow Up Fearless | The Body Image Book for Girls, published by Cambridge University Press, is certainly worth a place in any school library. Authored by a Professor in Psychology, whose research specialises in body image issues, the reader can have every confidence that the contents are backed up by authoritative evidence, but this is no dry academic tome. As she states in her introduction, Dr Markey is a mother of teenagers, a boy and a girl, and she really cares about girls having the information they need to make the right decisions and to develop healthy habits. When young girls are bombarded with images of airbrushed celebrities and social media pressures it is no wonder that most girls are dissatisfied with some aspect of their bodies and this can lead to anxiety, depression and worse. With an estimated 1.25 million people in the UK having an eating disorder there can be no doubt that there is a real need for a book like this to counter the misinformation out there. The ten chapters cover very clearly and concisely an enormous amount of information ranging from puberty and body changes to self-care, mental health, basic nutritional science, healthy eating habits and making food fun, physical activity and loving our bodies for what they do (not how they look)and how to handle social media and challenging fat shaming language. Each chapter has My Story sections with real life experiences, myth busting boxes, Q&A and a valuable concluding summary of the key points. Combined with an excellent glossary and helpful illustrations the reader can quickly find the information that they need at any given time. But the unpatronizing and non-didactive tone also makes this an enjoyable and engaging read likely to be read from cover to cover. Highly recommended for age nine upwards to the many adults who would benefit from its wisdom too! For more books with a strong, feminist theme, visit our Girl Power feature.
Radiating warmth through words and pictures as it lays bare wonders of the world, this extended picture book was inspired by the author’s meetings with children from around the globe as a supporter of UNICEF and Save the Children. Framed as a letter to interplanetary guests (“Dear visitor from Outer Space, if you come to Earth, here’s what you need to know”), it takes in the big and the small with huge heart and wisdom. The whole of life is here, from recognising and celebrating human difference (“Each of us is different. But all of us are amazing. And, together, we share one beautiful planet”), to portraying the animals of the sea, land and air that grace Earth. It also shows how we communicate through words, signs, music and art, and gently points out that while we sometimes hurt each other, “it’s better when we help each other.” And the mysteries of existence are touched on too - “There are lots of things we don’t know. We don’t know where we were before we were born, or where we go when we die. But right this minute we are here together on this beautiful planet.” What a wonderful gift-to-treasure this will make - a delight to read aloud and share thoughts about.
Readers will be left in no doubt that they matter after reading this beautiful, cleverly constructed story. The first image is of a little girl gazing down a microscope at ‘the small stuff too small to see.’ From there, the story moves through time, switching scale too from early ocean life – comically serious looking – to dinosaurs. The appearance of a blazing meteorite sends the story away from Earth up into space where an astronaut is thinking about her little boy, who is seen at the window of an apartment block. All are told that no matter what’s going on, whether you’re young or old, the first to go or last, you matter. The text circles round so that the opening lines are repeated at the close, tying the disparate-seeming elements together and wittily reminding us that – like everything else – we’re matter. It’s clever, full of surprises and, like that meteorite, makes a real impact.
Shortlisted for the Blue Peter Book Awards 2021, Best Book with Facts | This highly-illustrated reference book celebrates the incredible achievements of various ancient civilisations, exploring their lifestyles, discoveries and inventions, many of which have influenced modern-day society. A brief introduction outlines how humans evolved from apes several million years ago, and explains that homo sapiens, who originated in Africa, are the only species of human alive today. Maps on each page help children to visualise the location of the different civilisations, while a useful timeline at the end places them together in chronological order. Stylish, full-page illustrations provide a colourful and informative backdrop to the wealth of facts contained within this marvellous book.
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.
August 2020 Book of the Month | “Don’t take things for granted – challenge everything. That means challenging big business and your governments and, most of all, challenging yourself to act now and save the planet,” so writes activist author Blue Sandford, the seventeen-year-old founding member of Extinction Rebellion Youth London, in her inspiring call-to-action introduction to Challenge Everything. The only official handbook from Extinction Rebellion, this youth-driven, youth-oriented manifesto speaks loud and clear to the legions of young people who feel disenchanted with world leaders, and angry at the greed of big business dictating the downward direction of the world, all enhanced by strikingly designed slogans and illustrations. At the book’s heart is the powerful message that, “you are responsible for your own actions.” For example, “every time you take an uber, go on holiday on a plane, buy new trainers, even turn on the lights and heating, you’re contributing to climate and ecological collapse, you’re indirectly destroying rainforests and wildernesses.” This is typical of the book’s punch-packing perspective. Above all else, the author seeks to empower her readers with a change of mindset, one that challenges all aspects of the status quo, with the ultimate aim of saving the planet. Covering everything from the destructive effects of flying and the fast fashion industry, to the importance of re-wilding and reconnecting with nature, this potently persuasive manifesto also has a powerful practical emphasis, with details on the forms challenges might take, such as boycotting, non-violent direct action, campaigning and government lobbying. For more books on an eco theme try our Green Reads.