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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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The latest title in the Changemakers series offers another inspirational collection of 12 real-life stories from across the globe. The author herself set up a company to build bridges between rural communities and the global fashion market and has selected some brilliantly diverse examples here of sustainable enterprises working to improve the world. As in the previous books, each story has a beautifully illustrated double page spread with lively images of busy young people. The layout guides your eyes to the fact boxes and nuggets of information that describe succinctly the problem and how the young person set about changing things. Covering genuinely global topics such as reducing paper waste, period poverty, sustainable farming and green energy through to fashion and healthcare, the examples show that children are making a difference to the future of our world with their resourceful actions. Inevitably the amount of information on each scheme is brief but, at the back of the book, the reader is directed to all the project websites that they can access ‘with the help of an adult’ for more information, which will be useful for teachers and older pupils. They can also find ten suggestions of how they could help to build a more sustainable world and ten ways to be a responsible consumer. This refreshingly positive series strikes just the right note to energise and engage young eco-warriors and will be a useful support to environmental studies.
This is a compendium of poetry full of different styles, different shapes and different rhyme schemes that makes a wonderful read out loud collection that should be in every classroom. Each poem comes with a suggestion of how it might be used or how children might read it to each other, or even act out the different verses of specific poems. The poems make you smile, make you laugh, make you think, and the bright illustrations add colour, humour and pathos to the collection. Both author and illustrator are prize winners in their own right - making this book a delight from start to finish. Everyone will enjoy reading it plus it can be used across a wide range of ages. If you have read their previous book Poems Aloud you will love this new collection.
May 2022 Book of the Month - Interest Age Teen Reading Age 8 | Patrice Lawrence’s new book for Barrington Stoke is heartrending and thought-provoking, a taut first-person narrative that many will find themselves reading in one sitting. 15-year-old Charlene is struggling to say in control of her life. She’s been in care since her mother died two years ago and desperately misses her little sister, who is living with her own father. Knitting is Charlene’s therapy, the click, click, click of the needles helping her find calm, but the pressures she faces at school and outside are overwhelming. An act of cruelty against her leads Charlene to rage and violence. As the security she has known unravels, readers will understand her despair and frustration, particularly at the constant demands on her to be sorry. Written to be accessible to all readers, Needle lets us see through someone else’s eyes, highlighting the restrictive effects of society’s expectations of individuals. Vivid, powerful and unforgettable. Particularly suitable for struggling, reluctant and dyslexic teen readers
Nobody captures young children’s body language and expressions better than Roald Dahl Funny Prizewinning author, Rebecca Patterson, who is inspired in this latest book by her own lived experience of growing up with a disabled sister. The delightful Connie is our narrator and uses a wheelchair, which is never mentioned until it is commandeered by bossy playmate Ada as her ‘Throne of Rolling Power’. Ada and Colin, the Beswicks from next door, interrupt the magnificent game of unicorn farmers that Connie and big sister Frankie had been enjoying. The glum expressions of the three children, including Ada’s long suffering little brother Colin, trying to follow Queen Ada’s instructions for how to play her games, are simply hilarious. But when they rebel and leave her behind, Ada burst into tears and Colin shares a few home truths with his sister before Connie the peacemaker suggests they all be good unicorns together and a whole day of unicorn play follows. Not only a lovely relatable message about how to play together so that everyone is happy, but a really positive depiction of sibling love and, most importantly, portraying a disabled central character full of agency and fun.
May 2022 Debut of the Month | This is a brilliant debut novel from the winner of the World Illustration Awards Overall New Talent winner for 2020. The unnamed city wakes up to a small amount of water everywhere and everybody ignores it and gets on with their lives, except for one small creature who knows it will become a problem, but nobody listens. As life in the city becomes more and more problematic even the large creatures realise they must help the smaller ones, they all become fed up with having to deal with the issues of working in water all the time. Even the excitement of wearing Wellington boots all the time is not enough! It is at this point that everyone realises they must work together to solve the problem and to not let this sort of thing happen ever again. Illustrated in muted colours with a vibrant pantone blue for the water there is much humour in the illustrations and text, with many laugh out loud images before everyone realises that something must be done. The solution is simple when everyone works together. The text is minimal. I recommend this strong new talent in the making. The book has a strong climate change and community message that is vital for everyone now. This is a book that will appeal to all ages even though it is intended for the young. I look forward to seeing much more from Mariajo.
Otherworldly, yet rooted in patriarchal realities, Kelly Barnhill‘s When Women Were Dragons is a storytelling masterwork. Set from the 1950s, it presents a magnificent maelstrom of fire-breathing women who refuse to keep quiet, exposing the trauma of enforced silence, and shining a blazing light on how vital it is to transcend imposed shame and live your own way. “I was four years old when I first saw a dragon. I was four years old when I first learned to be silent about dragons. Perhaps this is how we learn silence — an absence of words, an absence of context, a hole in the universe where the truth should be”. So shares Alex, the narrator of this brilliant novel, who lives at a time when adults remember the “mass dragoning” of women that occurred on 25th April 1955, but never mention it. Alex’s aunt Marla was among those who rose up and transformed into a dragon, but it’s as if she never existed. Marla is never spoken of again - not by Alex’s sick mother, and not by Alex’s father, who leaves her to raise Marla’s daughter Beatrice. Before her transformation and vanishing, Marla told Alex that, “All women are magic. Literally all of us. It’s in our nature. It’s best you learn that now”. Fearing little Beatrice won’t be able to resist her powerful urges to dragon, Alex shuns any such notions, and silences Beatrice’s talk of dragons. But librarian Mrs Gyzinska, who supports Alex’s plan to become a mathematician, shares her learned insights, and frames the phenomenon of dragoning in the context of patriarchy: “There are people who have problems with women, and alas, many of them are also women. That is because of something called the patriarchy… an unnecessary and oppressive obstacle, and best disposed of as soon as possible.” As Alex grapples with tremendous conflicts and prejudice, we’re presented with a spectacular prom scene, a tense but glorious reunion, a beautiful love of a lifetime, and glorious sisterhood. What a story.