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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 globetrotting Penguin is the young reader’s tour guide as they explore the world and broadening a child’s horizons has never seemed more meaningful or relevant. 28 cities are explored within these pages- each city having its own double page spread. There has a been a commendable effort too, to ensure a good global spread of locations and cultures. Children will love pouring over the detail of the map and images of famous landmarks, museums and galleries and examples of food and culture which really bring the city alive and give a flavour of its history and development. The pages are colourful, but the soft tones mean that the pages do not appear too busy and the clever design and judicious use of text boxes does not overwhelm the reader. Each city has a basic fact box detailing the country, language, currency and population which makes for interesting comparisons. Young readers will also particularly enjoy the fun quizzes and games to test their knowledge and understanding. A valuable addition to classroom collections.
June 2020 Debut of the Month | This book takes a poetic look at what it means to be alive. Nuto is a debut author – a teacher in Tasmania, who asks some of the big questions about who we all are, about friendship and our place in the universe. It’s the sort of book that will be a bouncing off point for lots of discussions – but is presented in an accessible and colourful format. Charlotte Ager’s naïve style of illustration means it will appeal across the very young and the not so young. The bold illustrations offer colour and shade in big pictures. Starting with the big questions – that we are made of the stuff of stars, and that we are tiny in comparison to the universe, it goes on to show we have the means to explore, to be both positive and negative. It shows that though we are a small short-lived speck we have the ability to change the world for the better. There are some glorious illustrations – full of colour, detail and action, as well as others that are more contemplative. A good book to have in your classroom!
This is a poetic look at the history of natural hairstyles – and, through Sofia, we see children encouraged not to be afraid to be themselves. Every Sunday Sofia dreams as her Mum washes and styles her hair – and every style has a period and a cultural figure as an example of how styles and history sit together. Whilst feeling sleepy as her hair is done Sofia dream-travels to visit a Jamaican Rastafarian, an African ancestor and a Black Panther in Los Angeles. The poem takes on this journey through history and also beyond our world to the realisation that love of one another is the basis of all. The illustrations are bold and the fact that Tom Rawles is best known for album cover shows through his bold contemporary style. The publisher is a British Jamaican independent company – set up to bring to light some of the stories from the Caribbean and its peoples. It was founded in response to the need for diversity in publishing. I hope we see more from these publishers!
We first met Mrs Noah in Mrs Noah’s Pockets whilst the family were all on the Ark. Now the Ark has made land and whilst Noah makes the Ark into a home, Mrs Noah sets about planting a garden in the fresh new earth. Her always deep pockets furnish all the seeds needed for the job, the ark provides the trees they have nurtured along the way and she enlists the children to help her tend the new garden. A deceptively simple story –it is in the illustrations that we see the development of the garden as the pictures move from a dark rocky palette, to a more organised series of garden terraces, with colour gradually growing in each spread as we progress through the book – until at last we have a wonderful explosion of plants and animals for all the birds, bees and humans to share. A wonderful celebration of the joys of planting and growing, I can see it being used to seed discussions around how you might create a garden – in school or at home. Plus, as the publisher points out, it provides a positive way of encouraging discussion around migrants and refugees – as Mrs Noah and her family build a new home in a foreign land. I can see this becoming a firm favourite in classrooms all over the country.
From its striking yellow cover to the colour drenched inside spreads, this is a book which grabs the reader’s attention. Taking 12 familiar words, each entry explains the pronunciation, origin, English meaning, and original meaning, and then has a small paragraph with the story of how each word came to be included in English and how its meaning changed as the word travelled the globe. This allows the author to really highlight the interconnectedness of language and culture and subtly brings out the multi layered details of the history behind each word. The entertaining word selection shows us words with a number of types of derivation. We have those derived from phrases (companion comes from the Latin for ‘with bread’ - meaning a good friend who you could share your lunch with) , those from actions (Ukelele actually means, ‘jumping flea’, because the player’s fingers appear to jump around like fleas), some from sounds (animal names)and some generated by the universal appeal of onomatopoeia. This fascinating and accessible introduction to linguistics also has some surprises, for example the word Mummy used to describe a preserved body does not come from where you would expect! The witty illustrations add their own explanation of the meaning and connections behind each word and each word becomes part of the illustration. A useful map of language families completes a book designed to whet the appetite to explore yet more word origins. Readers will be left with a real awareness of the cultural diversity and ever-changing nature of the English language. An attractive and appealing information book that will be read with pleasure.
This compelling read tells a familiar story of the authority figure ( a popular teacher here) who behaves inappropriately and when his victim comes forward, she is not believed and her life takes a real turn for the worse, including in this case, work being marked down and university applications scuppered by the same teacher in revenge for her speaking out. What makes this book stand out is the complexity and authenticity of Marin’s internal dialogue and the fact that the dilemmas she faces and the choices she makes are all too believable. The book really gets to the heart of how difficult it is for girls and women to make sense of this kind of violation, and brilliantly explores the way they doubt themselves and the way that predators exploit these feelings. Marin’s experience opens her eyes to things that had previously passed unnoticed- the casual sexism of classmates and the institutional sexism of a school dress code and of an English curriculum which featured only male authors and even her own lack of awareness of what life is like for outsiders. While English teachers will celebrate Marin’s decision to express her protest in print via her student newspaper editorials, librarian’s will relish the feminist book club she also sets up ( and the excellent book recommendations that are given) This is an important book for both sexes to read and one which will hopefully start lots of conversations about equality, sexual harassment, and those unwritten social norms that govern our behaviour.