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25% Illness, 25% Friends, 25% Kindness, 25% BatPig | Twelve-year-old Ross is dealt a devastating blow when he’s told he has an extremely rare form of eye cancer and is likely to lose sight in both eyes. Based on author Rob Harrell’s personal experience of eye cancer, and spiced with his cool comic-strips of Ross’s Battbutt and Batpig characters, Wink has all the freshness and pitch-perfect narrative voice of a Louis Sachar story, with its own unique warmth and wit.As Ross struggles with the strangeness of undergoing immediate radiation treatment, he also faces a terrible time at school. Cruelly called the “Cancer Cowboy” on account of having to wear a hat, he’s also the subject of malicious memes. While Ross’s personal plight is at the huge heart of this novel, it’s equally as powerful in its portrayal of the wider impact of devastating diagnoses, most poignantly when Ross’s friend Isaac distances himself from their Oreo-sealed friendship pact. But as Isaac retreats, he makes life-changing new friends as a result of his treatment. First there’s fellow patient Jerry, a wise-cracking old guy who rebuffs Ross’s desire to be normal. According to Jerry, “Different moves the needle. Different is where the good stuff happens. There’s strength in difference.” Then there’s Frank, the adorable radiation tech guy who teaches Ross to play guitar, which has tear-jerkingly transformational effects.What an authentic, emotional, amusing and all-round awesome read this is.
Iris takes refuge with her grandma, Mimi, to escape the chaos at home, caused by her two-year old twin siblings and her dad’s DIY repairs. There’s a different kind of disorder in Mimi’s house which is chock full of items collected over the years, chiefly boxes of photos she’s taken and developed. Among the photographs of other people’s weddings are family portraits and its one of these that sets Iris on a hunt to unravel an old mystery, even as Mimi’s memories are fading. The story is beautifully told, as much about Iris and her search for order and happiness as it is about Mimi and her struggle with dementia. A poignant, thoughtful examination of family relationships, memory and loss, that ends on a note of hope and renewal.
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.
Eva Eland has a way with pictures and words that, although deceptively simple, actually deals with the big matters of life in a very accessible and encouraging way. Her previous book When Sadness Comes to Call gained many outstandingly positive reviews and this follow up book on happiness is going to get the same response. Very expressive, clear illustrations in mainly blues and a wonderful fluorescent pink make this a happy experience to read. Eland looks at the ways we may chase happiness or happiness may just creep up on us but finishes with the phrase ‘Happiness begins with you.’ Definitely a book for classrooms, libraries and PHSE lessons – it will encourage empathy as children start to understand their own and the emotions of others, as well as being a satisfying book to read.
The novel of The Crossover is a Newberry Medal Winner, and a Coretta Scott King Award Winner in the US and was Shortlisted for the Carnegie Medal in the UK. This graphic novel version is the whole story complete with large and small two-coloured illustrations gracing every page. This is a deceptively simple read – a novel in verse about siblings getting through middle school, their lives, their crushes, their family interactions, and basketball. The boys are twins Josh and Jordan Bell, sons of a famous basketball player, and aiming to make a mark in the world of basketball. There are rivalries between the boys, they revel in their differences, but family holds them together whatever the world throws at them. The words and pictures work so well together, you will be on the edge of your seat, rooting for the team as they play and crying with the twins when thigs go awry. To tell such a complex story with so few words, with such emotional depth – Alexander is a master of devastating and uplifting storytelling. Anyabwile’s illustrations enhance a superb story – adding expressions and movement to an already great novel.
‘My body is strong. My body can do amazing things. My body is my own.’ That’s the message for young girls to take from this comforting, uplifting and much-needed self-help guide. Our bodies are unique and amazing, it says, all of them, and there’s no one size, shape or colour that’s perfect. The message is demonstrated via colour illustrations featuring a range of young women happy with the way they look and who they are. The accompanying text reinforces this and also provides self-help tips for those times when you’re feeling down or insecure. There’s a really useful ‘Now What?’ section too full of self-care practices, while the jacket doubles as a poster for your wall, a self-care list for everyday life. It’s been carefully thought out from beginning to end, while illustrator Carol Rossetti’s young women feel like a group of friends cheering you on.
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.
Rabbit and Bear: Book 4 | Rabbit is worried: trees in their forest are disappearing and, worse still, the stream has moved – even unflappable Bear declares herself ‘close to being slightly worried’ at that. The cause is the arrival of Castor Canadensis, a beaver, who is delighted with engineering as a means of building ‘New, Bigger and Better things’ in the name of ‘Progress’. It suits some of the animals, but definitely not all. Fortunately, Bear finds a way to get the animals working together, so that Castor’s hard work benefits them all, himself included. As ever, there’s as much insight as humour, and it’s a superb read aloud story. Gough and Field make creating books this good look simple, because they’re both masters at what they do. Treat yourself, and buy all four books.
Longlisted for the UKLA Book Awards 2020 | | Jeanne Willis is a latter-day Hilaire Belloc creating cautionary tales for modern youth that are both hilarious and full of sensible advice. Desperate to win more ‘likes’ for her posts, Goldilocks is driven to find ever more daring activities to share, which is why she takes a selfie breaking in to the bears’ cottage, and - #pipinghot! – one of her eating their porridge. It all ends in tears of course, and community service, but what’s worse for Goldilocks is that her posts are there forever, depicting her as a horrid porridge thief and leading to the moral: ‘So please, think twice before you send!’ Tony Ross’s illustrations, sharp and full of life and wit, are the perfect complement to the rhyme. Brilliance all round!
Renée Watson’s remarkable What Momma Left Me is a wise and nourishing story rooted in themes of resilience, healing and love. With high school on the horizon, African American Serenity is struggling to piece her life back together following the brutal death of her beloved momma and the loss of her dad. Amidst this sensitively evoked maelstrom, Serenity finds hope in the form of her wholesome grandparents, church (where Grandpa is a pastor), brother Danny and new friend and confidante Maria, a bright beam of light who harbours her own bleak secrets. Serenity handles her grief, set-backs and challenging dilemmas with dignity, her grandparents a constant, calming presence as they impart wisdom, such as this nod to Maya Angelou’s ‘Still I Rise’ poem: “That’s why we say ‘we rise’, children. There have been lots of things that have tried to keep us down. But we’ve got resilience running through these veins.”Empathetically charting Serenity’s grief, first romance and growing up (what Serenity does to save Maria from an unsafe situation shows strength and wisdom way beyond her years), this huge-hearted novel comes highly recommended for its honesty, depth and engaging readability, along with Watson’s Piecing Me Together and Watch Us Rise (the latter co-authored with Ellen Hagan).
This is the fifth book in this terrific series for young readers, and Sam Wu has already conquered his fear of ghosts, sharks, the dark and spiders (with the help of his friends of course) but zombies – in fact, zombie-werewolves – that’s a whole new kettle of scariness. They happen to be living in the basement in his arch-nemesis Ralph Zinkerman’s home too. Can Sam overcome his fear and save the day? There are surprises and mishaps galore before a terrific climax that sees zombies (or are they?) rampaging all over the local museum. Great adventure, great fun and wonderful to look at too thanks to Nathan Reed’s illustrations.
January 2020 Book of the Month | “Your body belongs to you, and you get to set your own rules.” At once inspiring, informative and entertaining, this perfectly-pitched consent primer covers the concept of consent, setting boundaries, having control over your personal space and body, and being self-aware.Ideal for use in the classroom as a fun and enlightening teaching aid, the appealingly bold cartoons present big issues in an admirably relatable manner. Alongside the clear explanation of what consent is and how to set boundaries, this empathy-nurturing book also shares valuable insights into how to be a supportive friend, making it a uniquely useful navigational tool.