All the books we feature as Books of the Month on LoveReading4Schools are selected because we think they deserve to stand out from the crowd. We select a few each month across the key stages.
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Compiled by YA author and broadcaster Juno Dawson, this inspiring anthology of illustrated short stories by LGBTQ+ writers shines a light on a kaleidoscopic array of experiences through an equally kaleidoscopic breadth of genres, themes and styles. From Chinese lesbian fairytale The Phoenix’s Fault by Cynthia So, to Simon James Green’s hilarious, heart-warming Penguins (who would’ve thought a pair of penguins could steal a person’s coming out thunder?!), this is a powerfully diverse collection. Alongside more established names, among them authors David Levithan and Jess Vallance, and illustrator David Roberts, special mention must go to the four new voices whose stories grace these pages – be sure to seek out what Karen Lawler, Michael Lee Richardson, Cynthia So and Kay Staples do next. These are stories of struggle and trouble, passion and promise, with much wit, warmth, wisdom and support shared along the way. And so it seems fitting to leave the last loud, proud, celebratory words to Dan from David Levithan’s queer youth choir story: “You hold your ground. You sing out loud and proud in defiance of all the people who want you to be quiet”.
This high-octane, high-stakes London-set thriller is a fast-paced read with contemporary resonance about kids who get caught up in gang culture as a result of being forgotten by government and overlooked by adults. Orphan Ollie’s life is turned upside-down when his guardian is captured and attacked in front of him and he discovers The Haven, a secret subterranean organisation of kids and teenagers who look after and educate each other with no adult intervention. “We’ve come to realise that grown-ups don’t always have kids’ interests at heart,” explains one of The Haven’s leaders. This stimulating set-up is propelled by a gripping race against time to find a missing kid, the murderous menace of a woman bent on destroying the city, and the threat that The Haven itself might be dying as a result of diminishing incomers and depleting donations from former members. The compellingly thought-provoking concept is deftly delivered through accessibly snappy writing and, as such, I’d recommend it to reluctant readers and those with shorter attention spans as well as devoted fans of teen thrillers, providing as it does an instant hit of action, intrigue and narrative energy. What’s more, this is the first in a series, and readers will no doubt be left eagerly awaiting the second instalment.
An absolutely compelling, pyschological insight into the woman who created the much studied Gothic novel Frankenstein which will illuminate that study enormously and ensure a much deeper understanding. Mary Godwin’s own story is, of course, as dramatic and heartrending as her novel and Sharon Dogar brings her vividly to life. The reader is swept up by the romance of the young lovers, Mary and Shelley, but probably astonished at her youth; she was only 16 when they eloped, and genuinely shocked at their courage in defying society and conventional morality. Then outraged by the way she is treated by her father; a radical philosopher in writing only and certainly not in his actions and then very nearly overwhelmed by the tragedy that dogs her. But the strength of this beautifully written and cleverly constructed novel is the insight into the other players in this drama as well as into Mary’s emotional and mental turmoil. The clue is in the clever title – not Monster but Monsters and Mary’s frank understanding of her own monstrous behaviour, especially to stepsister Claire or Shelley’s wife Harriet, perfectly counterpoints the lack of self-awareness in Mr Godwin, Byron, Claire and Shelley himself. This left me desperate to re-read Frankenstein which surely shows this thoughtful novel can be a real gift to English teachers everywhere. - Joy Court
Tara Binns never knows what will happen when she opens her old dressing up box in the attic. In this first of her anti-stereotypical adventures she suddenly finds herself the pilot of a jet plane flying high above the ocean and scarily responsible for the lives of passengers and crew. Luckily she is always accompanied on these adventures by Ayesha and Ortez who encourage her to have faith in her abilities and work through the problems ahead. Even a tropical storm and an emergency landing can be tackled by this quick witted heroine. Aimed at readers ready for longer chapters with more complex ideas and with a diverse and representative cast of characters this colourfully illustrated and engaging series is an excellent choice for the classroom or library. I can see that Tara Binns is all set to be the Mr Ben of this generation and this time we have a female role model! David McKee’s book and TV series no doubt inspired many boys in the 1980’s to reach for their dreams- whatever they may be. But as the WISE campaign for gender balance in STEM professions, which endorses this series from Collins Big Cat, tells us: only 8% of girls go on to study STEM subjects and only 22% of women are employed in STEM careers. Tara Binns could help to change that and inspire girls to open their eyes to their full potential! Each story in this book banded series has a reading guide at the back providing practical support and stimulating activity ideas. There is a full teaching guide and lesson plan available on the website https://collins.co.uk/pages/tara-binns and WISE are providing real life case studies for each of the careers featured. Double-quick Doctor and Big Idea Engineer are available now and 3 more STEM career titles will follow later in the year.
A Julia Eccleshare Pick of the Month January 2019 | Winner of the UKLA 2018 Book Award 3-6 | An EmpathyLab Read for Empathy book 2018 | Simplicity is the charm of this picture book story of the unlikely friendship between very different vegetables. Lee is a very green pea and so are all of his friends except for Colin who is a very orange carrot. Colin can’t do all the things that the pea-friends can do such as roll or bounce. Nonetheless, it turns out that they can all be very good friends. Julia Eccleshare's Picks for January 2019: Lark by Anthony McGowan Colin and Lee, Carrot and Pea by Morag Hood Dear Zoo Snuggle Book by Rod Campbell Whatever Next! by Jill Murphy Billly and the Minpins by Roald Dahl Badger's Parting Gifts by Susan Varley We're Going on a Bear Hunt by Michael Rosen The Skylarks' War by Hilary McKay
There’s lots of adventure and laughs-a-plenty in this little story, which mixes magic into a tale of everyday school life. Eric is horrified to learn that if he doesn’t do well in a forthcoming test he’ll miss the football County Cup – and he’s the star player. Fortunately, the arrival of a special present from his aunty changes everything – a sweater knitted from Andes sheep wool it’s apparently got magical powers and will boost his brain. And it does – so much in fact that Eric is branded a genius and wins a place in a very different competition, Junior Brain of the Year. If only he can cope with the sweater’s terrible pong long enough to compete … Illustrations by the inimitable Tony Ross add to the fun and this will set all young readers chuckling.
A Julia Eccleshare Pick of the Month January 2019 | | Roald Dahl’s dramatic last story is perfectly matched for the first time by Quentin Blake’s new illustrations in a beautifully produced edition. Billy is told by his mum that he must never go out through the garden gate and into the dark wood. But how can he resist the attraction of the wood and what is in it? Billy heads into the wood and meets the Minpins, delightful tiny creatures who live inside the hollow trees. And the Minpins are terrified. The dreadful Gruncher is destroying them and they need Billy’s help to stop him. Soon Billy finds himself at the centre of a thrilling adventure that is literally a matter of life and death. Roald Dahl’s story-telling skills look as bright as ever.
Winner of the Costa Children's Book Award 2018 | A Julia Eccleshare Pick of the Month January 2019 | One of our 2018 Books of the Year | Award winning Hilary McKay tells a captivating and deeply moving story of three young people growing up in the years before and during World War One. How their lives were totally changed by the War, how what really happened to the soldiers could never be talked about and how a girl like Clarry suddenly had opportunities because of the war are all touched on in a story that is also about universal adolescent relationships and the timeless concerns of being a teenager. Following their mother’s death at her birth, Clarry and her older brother Peter live a joyless life with their gloomy father. The pair live for their summer holidays in Cornwall with their grandparents which they share with their older cousin Rupert. Here, the trio are free to be themselves and to begin to break away from the constraints of family expectations. When war is declared Rupert enlists: his family is horrified and Clarry and Peter are left trying to work out where he might be, how they themselves should react to the war and, above all, whether Rupert is safe. Hilary McKay has a rare gift for novels about families and their interplay. Here, she weaves her story round one of the most powerful backdrops in history. And she does so with the lightest of touch which makes her history come alive.
STEM skills (science, technology, engineering and mathematics) are important to all aspects of our lives, from construction to space exploration, from the digital world to caring for the natural one. Here are 40 quick, easy to access STEM activities that can be done just as easily at home as at school; you don’t need to be an expert to carry them out, and yes, they really do take just 15 minutes. They are all hands on and will encourage curiosity, for example, experimenting with soap bubbles explains tensile structure, Newton’s third law of motion is demonstrated using a balloon and some bits of cardboard, while you can find out about kinetic energy while making a catapult. Practical, fun and instructive.