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Each month our team of book lovers choose a selection of books they have loved and think deserve an extra shout out. Everyone fights to get theirs on the list. Here are this month’s faves.
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A reassuring read that explores the ways in which all things, whether teeth, a bad mood, music or nits, come to an end – except one. Alemagna’s distinctive drawings are overlaid with tracing paper in a way that allows elements of the pictures to disappear and reappear.
January 2020 Debut of the Month | There’s love, friendship and challenging prejudice aplenty in this debut novel by a LGBTQ+ parenting expert. Introverted Izzy has just started Year 8 and is wildly excited when her favourite teacher announces auditions for a Christmas production of Guys and Dolls. Though shy, she’s come to love acting because on stage she “could be whoever I wanted.” And Izzy’s not the only member of her family who wants - and needs - to be who they really are, as she discovers when her dad tells the family he’s transgender and is about to begin transitioning. Though he gently explains, “It’s nothing to be ashamed of, it’s nothing dirty, I’m not ill”, Izzy’s older sister reacts angrily, her little brother accepts it in the same way he understands Spider Man and Peter Parker’s different identities, while Izzy feels quiet worry about how their lives will change. The family’s journey is honestly and sensitively portrayed as they endure hurtful prejudice alongside many heart-melting moments, such as the gorgeous scene in which the three siblings think-up their new name for Dad. This is at once an important support tool for children in similar situations, and a barrier-breaking, empathy-inducing story for all.
January 2020 Debut of the Month | This beautifully written debut has all the elements of a classic adventure and is guaranteed to capture readers and not let them go until the last page is turned. A lost princess, a stolen kingdom, a wicked uncle and his evil henchman, a supernatural ruby and a tiger that talks- who could resist? Our heroine Fly engages from the start- escaping from the cruel master sweep she finds her escape chimney empties her into a tiger’s cage. The tiger does not eat her but decides she has royal blood and speaks to her. Whilst not believing him Fly expertly arranges their escape vowing to return to rescue the other caged animals awaiting their sale by the mysterious bejewelled fat man. Fly has a certain skill which her gang of street urchins has put to good use in the past. She has the power to prevent people seeing what she does not want them to see - when she and the tiger board a horse drawn omnibus the passengers only see a scruffy urchin and a rather large dog. But this is only the start of the adventure and we gradually learn more about Fly’s origins and about the wickedness of the men who have imprisoned the rightful king and are selling the animals and enslaving the people of the beautiful island kingdom to which she and the tiger belong. With the villains in hot pursuit a storm and shipwreck seem to ensure a tragic end to their quest. But with the wonderful twists and turns the reader has become accustomed to, all’s well that ends well. This is a magnificent story of courage, love and loyalty which leaves the reader satisfied and enriched.
20 lessons on how to wake up, take action, and do the work | This has 20 colourful chapters which slowly build to give a full picture of identities, histories and anti-racism work in the USA, Australia and UK. It is aimed at students (mainly) with the intention to make them feel empowered to challenge racism and stand up for what they believe in. Having said that – it is a powerful and accessible read for everyone. Tiffany Jewell is an anti-racist, anti-bias educationalist who uses a very carefully chosen vocabulary so that no-one is excluded, supported by the wonderful bright colour illustrations and layout it makes an inviting read on a sometimes difficult topic. Each chapter is a chance for the reader to look at their own beliefs, their power, or their lack of it, and consider what might be possible to change. The chapters are arranged in groupings under the headings of Understanding and growing Identities; Making sense of the world; Taking action and responding to racism; Working in solidarity against racism. If taken as the basis of a series of study this could provide a fascinating term’s work (at least) as it covers so much in such a short book. This makes it sound rather didactic – it isn’t, this is a very readable, very informative, very thought-provoking book. Just what we need in this radicalized and strife-ridden world. Buy copies for your school – you won’t regret it!
Twice winner of the Carnegie Medal, Berlie Doherty is one of our finest writers for young people and Deep Secret is a beautifully told story of people, place, changing times and lasting memories. At its heart are two young girls, identical twins Grace and Madeleine, but it’s just as much the story of their community, the people of a small Derbyshire village. It’s 1945, a time of change for the whole country but particularly for the characters in the book: the valley in which they live is to be flooded for a reservoir and they must all leave their homes. Even before the waters arrive, stories float to the surface and we learn so much about the people of the valley and their history. It’s a wonderfully touching description of a lost way of life, and when a tragic event occurs drama and pain follows before finally acceptance and understanding. This is the kind of story that resonates with readers long after the final page, and highly recommended.
This collaboration, between the first American Olympic medallist to compete wearing a hijab and an award-winning Muslim YA author, is a beautiful story of sisterly love as well as a thoughtful depiction of the significance of wearing the hijab. Expressed in terms of family pride and self determination rather than in terms of faith, makes the message particularly accessible to all young readers regardless of their background. Faizah is excited for her first day of school, with her light up shoes and new backpack, but even more excited for her older sister, Asiya with her brand-new blue hijab. As Faizah walks to the school she admires her sister who looks like ‘a princess’ in her blue head scarf. Their mother has prepared the girls with wise words, which they remember as they encounter different reactions, and these are shown on dreamy spreads of Faiza’s thoughts and their mother’s words. When the kids in the school bully Asiya, she remembers her mother’s advice to not carry hurtful words as “they are not yours to keep. They belong only to those who said them” The bullies are cleverly depicted as faceless, raceless, anonymous shadows thus avoiding apportioning blame to any one sector. The vivid colour and expressive illustration are just as powerful as words in conveying the passionate message of how to be proud of one’s culture, individuality, and religion and how to stay strong protected by the armour of family love. This is an excellent book about identity and self-confidence for young readers who can see themselves in Asiya or know someone like her and essential for Empathy collections.