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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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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.
March 2020 Book of the Month | 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.
March 2020 Debut of the Month | The author has revealed just how much of this searing novel is based upon her own experiences at school which lends credibility and authenticity to the situations described, but she has also created utterly believable and relatable characters with truly authentic teen voices and dialogue. Within a few pages we are thrust into the raw pain of grief and utter disbelief in the aftermath of a teen suicide. The narration alternates between 15-year-old Nathan, the younger brother who discovered Al’s body and Megan the school friend who shared Al’s passion for art, but each chapter is cleverly introduced by the voice of Al himself. Both Nathan and Megan are wracked with guilt, blaming themselves for letting Al down. Nathan, by not picking up the call from Al on that fateful afternoon and Megan by sticking with the ‘cool’ kids and not acknowledging Al as a friend. Nathan wants to understand why Al was driven to suicide and Megan wants to prove to the world how special he was. Gradually we develop a deep and nuanced understanding of their growing relationship and of all the characters involved: be they friends, family or even ‘villains’. There are no cardboard cyphers here. The thought provoking, intelligent writing also reveals the overwhelming influence of social media on the lives of young people. Megan can use Instagram and Facebook to positively celebrate Al’s artwork, but together they discover the extremes of cyberbullying he had been exposed to and which ultimately pushed Al over the edge, helped by the casual spite which colours so much daily interaction on social media. This devastating, truthful and important novel is an essential school purchase, and will no doubt provoke valuable discussion both in classrooms and between peers.
The third in a sequence of stand-alone historical novels, set at key points in the history of the divided island that is currently front and centre in Brexit negotiations, this could not be more topical and very possibly prescient in describing the situation in 1921 and the partition of Northern Ireland and the hard border which quite literally fractures communities. The author talks in the end pages of the book about growing up in this border area with the army and customs check points and how much the community enjoys today’s freedom of movement and is terrified of losing that. But this beautifully written novel is not an ‘issue’ novel, it is full of brilliantly realised characters and a pitch perfect evocation of the period. The story of the bold 14-year-old heroine, Polly and her struggles to find her way forward in life cleverly mirrors the struggles of the newly emerging country. She ran away to Belfast to escape of life of drudgery looking after the men in her family after her mother’s death from influenza. She finds refuge in Helen’s Hope, a feminist hostel where young women live and work together, a haven of tolerance and diversity in an area wracked with division and hatred. The non-partisan mission of this hostel sums up the greatest strength of this fascinating and moving novel in that it absolutely does not demonise either side, while being completely up front about the terrible things that are happening. There are bad, mean and cruel characters but this is not because of the ideologies they follow, but because some people are like that, and we even get insights into why that might be. The second book in this sequence, Star by Star, went on to become the best selling book ever from this small imprint and won Children’s Books Ireland’s Honour Award for Fiction 2018. I can see similar accolades for this ‘sister’ novel and can highly recommend all three (the first being Name Upon Name) as invaluable purchases to support the history curriculum, but absolutely as engaging reads for pleasure too.
Clive Gifford is renowned for the quality and accuracy of his non-fiction books and has been nominated for, and won, many awards for his books. The illustrations are bright and child friendly making this a great book to dip into or to pore over. The point is made in the book that comparing things is a great way to learn about them, as well as being useful it’s also fun. It’s not often you can see the biggest, tallest and longest creatures on the earth in one double page spread, or how fast different creatures run. It’s no wonder you can never catch your pet cat – they run faster than humans! Still on cats, I had no idea they contained less water in their bodies than dogs! Subjects covered range from changing seasons, to flying high, mighty machines and tiny creatures plus many more. A book I am sure many youngsters will get a great deal of pleasure from, as well as learning lots along the way.
February 2020 Book of the Month | Charlie Tanner’s dog Jasper thinks he’s descended from Viking dogs and is determined to find out more. This sparks a series of very funny letters from Charlie to the curator at the local Viking museum, in which Charlie poses questions from Jasper. In fact, questions and answers tell us lots about Viking life and the unusual and ingenious presentation makes it all extremely readable and accessible. A great way to learn about the Vikings. Jasper has explored space for readers too, and it looks he has more adventures to come, which is good news.