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The books in this section cover a range of PSHE topics including bullying, disability, family issues and mental health. There are both fiction and non-fiction titles and cover age ranges from Toddler to Older Teen.
Not since Adrian Mole opened his diary have the thoughts and innermost feelings of an adolescent boy been examined so precisely or with such heart. Stan is twelve, shy and a worrier, so the thought of a holiday in Italy with his friend Felix and Felix’s family freaks him out. He’s going though: we meet him at the airport drawing up a ‘duck-it’ list of things he hopes he’ll never have to do. Little does he know that he’ll tick off six out of ten of them on his holiday, and enjoy it too. The first-person narrative lets us in on all Stan’s thoughts, but he’s a good observer of others so we learn loads about the others in the holiday party too, kids and grown-ups. There are laugh-out-loud scenes and moments of pure agony, and through it all Stan is learning loads about himself and life in general. Honest, revealing, compassionate and so entertaining, this is a must read for all the Stans out there – adults, give yourselves a treat and read it too.
Following the critically acclaimed Stepsister, this is the Carnegie medal winning authors second ‘ feminist’ fairytale and one that could not be more pertinent to our times. The heart is a powerful symbol and princess Sophie has continually been told that she is too weak, too kind-hearted, too emotional to ever be queen. This is the ‘poison’ which has been constantly dripped into her ear sapping her confidence and self-belief. So far, so familiar, but what makes this tale so psychologically engrossing is that we see the effect of ‘poison’ on the wicked stepmother too. The author refuses to believe that an all-powerful queen would really be bothered by the trifling concerns of beauty and the question to the mirror becomes ‘who will bring about my fall?’ Adelaide is herself the victim of patriarchy and a cruel childhood and it is the King of Crows, the embodiment of Fear, that speaks to her from the mirror and manipulates the attacks on Sophie. With the familiar elements of the fairy tale fleshed out and the alternative 17th century Germanic setting vividly peopled by creatures both whimsical and deadly and with marvellous new characters like Will the archer and Arno the grave robber to educate Sophie about social justice and to support her quest to become the true queen to protect her people, this is a hugely engrossing and beautifully written tale. Its message that kindness and love have the power to defeat cruelty and pain empowers all girls to value their own strength and to let no one’s poisonous words destroy them. 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.
October 2020 Debut of the Month | Full of a sense of tenderness but also possibilities, Songs for our Sons contains every wish you could have for a young boy growing up today, from ‘Never change, fib or follow, just to try to fit in./Be proud, free and happy in your own, unique skill’, to ‘Keep a still place inside, that you can call home/ and know how to find it, wherever your roam.’ The text is touching, heartfelt and always uplifting, while Ashling Lindsay’s illustrations depict children playing in a range of settings, from green fields to desert cities and magic trees, bold colours and shifting perspectives making every turn of the page an adventure. Giving this and receiving it, both will be a real joy.
Bethan Woollvin won the Macmillan Children’s Book Competition with her first book Little Red and has since produced some wonderfully engaging picture books all looking at elements of traditional fairy tales. I Can Catch a Monster is the story of Erik, Ivar and Bo who live in a land of forests and monsters. Erik and Ivar set off to catch some monsters for themselves, leaving their sister Bo behind as she is ‘too small’. Bo knows she is smart and brave, so she sets off to hunt her own monster. The monsters Bo meets are varied and include a Griffin, a Kraken and a dragon – but rather than fight them (as she knows her brothers will try) she learns something from each of them and becomes the centre of humanity in the book. This picture book tells the story in a series of illustrations which give the impression of being made in old printmaking techniques using a limited palette of colours which emphasizes the bold, simple illustrations used throughout. As one might hope– Bo turns out to be bold, to have more understanding of the natural world – and to be a brave female role model for the readers. This simple take on traditional quest tales will be a favourite – and provides a lovely counterpoint for the old tales with all their slaying and death! Bethan was once asked to describe her books in three words – she chose ‘bold, dark and sneaky’ *– this is most definitely all of those but also delightful and endearing – do read it!
There are life lessons galore for young readers of this hugely appealing picture book. Little dragon Fergal is a bit anxious about going off to summer camp – he’s never been before – and when he arrives, he’s so determined to make his mark that he doesn’t notice he’s being a bit selfish and upsetting the other little dragons. Fortunately, the camp leader can sort things out and give Fergal some useful advice: he needn’t be best at everything, he just needs to relax and be himself and everything else will follow. It’s an important message for all young children and it’s fun to learn it with Fergal and his little friends, as colourful and companionable a group as you could hope to meet. Look out for the first Fergal story too, Fergal is Fuming, which is just as good at prompting conversations about feelings and behaviour.
Robert Starling’s little dragon Fergal has lots of fans and no wonder. His adventures are wonderfully accurate representation of everyday family life and will be recognisable to every toddler and parent. In this story, Fergal has become a big brother but the arrival of baby Fern is making him anxious, unsettled and angry. Things come to a head when a trip he’s been looking forward to has to be cancelled. Fortunately, Dad encourages Fergal to talk about how he’s been feeling and after that everything gets better. There’s a very useful message here and as ever Starling delivers it with charm, humour and sensitivity. This is another excellent book to share and absolutely essential if you’ve got a toddler and new baby.
A beautiful story about sadness, depression and hope. Blue lives in the darkest depths of the forest. He has long forgotten how to fly, sing and play. The other birds swoop and soar in the sky above him, the sun warming their feathers. But Blue never joins in. Until, one day, Yellow arrives. Step by step, Yellow reaches out to Blue. With patience and kindness. And little by little, everything changes... A thoughtful and uplifting story. Perfect for helping children learn how to deal with and understand sadness, and how to be there for people in their lives struggling with depression.
A hungry little mouse strolls through very prettily illustrated countryside scenes, reminiscent of favourite folk tales, and is lucky enough to discover four juicy apples. So far, so good, but then she runs into a bear, a bear who holds that might is right and who refuses to share. Undeterred, the clever mouse finds a way to eat her apples and to persuade her new friend of the joy of sharing. Written in rhyme this is particularly pleasing to read aloud and children will love the story of a lesson learned and friendship formed.
August 2020 Book of the Month | A Julia Eccleshare Pick of the Month August 2020 | Positive feelings that make you smile; Feelings that can make you cry – these and all the emotions that lie between them are explored in the words and pictures of It’s OK to Cry. Sarah Jennings’s attractive illustrations capture how someone may look while experiencing SAD, HURT, SURPRISED, HOPEFUL and much more while Molly Potter uses a reassuringly matter of fact tone to explain a wide range of the feelings that we all have everyday. An excellent book which can open up good conversations when shared while also being useful for a child to browse through on their own.
Longlisted for the UKLA Book Awards 2021 | Newbery Medal winner Rebecca Stead writes books that are rich with ideas and acknowledge her readers’ intelligence and intuition. Eight-year-old Bea is the central character in her latest novel, and, typically, there’s lots going on in her life. She divides her time between her mother’s and father’s homes following their divorce and visits a therapist who helps with her anxieties. The story culminates in her father’s wedding to his new partner, Jesse. As ever, we move back and forth in time, and discover much about Bea’s inner life as well as her daily routine in New York. Relationships with family and friends propel the story and there are some real shocks and surprises for readers, plus a gradual understanding of the things that will never change for Bea. It’s beautifully written, a thoughtful, sensitive account of growing up and growing resilience and trust. Fans of Rebecca Stead will also enjoy Kate DiCamillo’s books and Susin Nielsen’s.