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Meet 29 inspiring people and discover their mental health stories | The book is a bright and, at first glance, light-hearted look at mental health issues and some of the famous people who live with them and overcome them in various ways. But, as Professor Peter Fonagy states in the introduction, the graphics are intended as a ‘help to see the lighter side of ourselves’. Twenty-nine differing famous people – from current singers and songwriters to famous historical figures are all examined - with a double page spread each - giving a brief outline of their issue and how they, as individuals, found ways to deal with it. Each spread has a number of related quotations from the individual picked out and emphasized – helping readers pinpoint the issues being discussed. The problems cover a huge range of problems - PTSD, Anxiety, OCD, Panic Attacks, Sexuality issues - to name a very few. Many have some form of depression as a symptom or result – but as something like 350 million people suffer with depression worldwide it is not as surprising as you might think. The fact that all the illness details are taken from publicly available sources just shows how much better we are becoming at talking about mental health issues generally. There are some straightforward messages that come from all the cases – that talking helps, that taking time for oneself is vital and that coping skills will be different for different people. The main message I took from the book is that it is important to be honest about your condition and that it’s OK not to be OK! This last phrase is actually the heading for the list of useful and important organisations – vital in a book of this sort as young people may well browse the title, recognise their own feelings and want to get some help. An ideal book to have in classrooms and libraries, very accessible and browsable.
With the pizzazz and humour that make his Dragonsitter books so popular, Josh Lacey tells the story of one girl’s efforts to save the planet. Like many ten-year olds Hope Jones is worried about the state of the environment, and about plastic pollution in particular. Her dad is always saying if you want something done, you have to do it yourself, so she sets about doing what she can. Her adventures are recounted via her lively blog and we get a ringside view of her peaceful protest outside the local supermarket, interactions with local businesses, and conversations with neighbours, friends and parents of friends. As her campaign reaches more and more people, Hope realises that we can all make a difference, if we’re determined enough. There are great illustrations throughout, and it all makes for a fast, entertaining and positive read. Hooray for Hope Jones!
Dynamic and visually appealing, this book inspires young people to think, not only about the planet and the impact that humanity is having upon it, but also about the ways in which we treat each other. Covering a wide range of the sort of issues that young people are likely to be most concerned about, such as climate change, pollution, animal welfare, gender equality, social justice, homelessness and hunger. Each graphically striking double spread introduces a topic and the issues of concern in a lively and accessible way. Then it introduces the young activists that are making a difference around the world. Greta Thunberg is obviously there in several sections, but over 80 young change-makers from all around the globe are featured. Then there are the pages which suggest ways in which the reader can get involved right now. How they can change their own behaviour and how they can impact upon their home and school. It even has ideas for potential eco-businesses. At the end of the book there is a really comprehensive listing of where to find these featured activists as well as organisations, books, media and websites. There is also very welcome advice on maintaining your own safety and wellbeing – the “Don’t feed the trolls” page of advice for example. A comprehensive index and glossary of terms completes this no-nonsense, non-patronising call to arms. Full of useful information and fascinating life stories this will undoubtedly be regularly picked up by the young readers it is aimed at.
May 2020 Debut of the Month | There have been many versions of the moral tale of the crow and the peacock and this one from debut picture-book artist Jo Fernihough is particularly attractive. The vibrant mixed media and collage images are full of movement and expression and immediately catch the reader’s attention. Crow is living happily and contentedly until he starts to compare his feathers and his song with other birds. From the dove to the nightingale, to the cockerel to the swan, each bird seems more magnificent than the last and crow is sure each one must be the happiest bird alive, but each in turn direct him to a bird they are envious of. But when he finally reaches the magnificent peacock he learns that he himself is the subject of envy. He is free to sing and fly free compared to the caged peacock. Crow and the reader learn the lesson about what is really important in life and that one must count your own blessings. A strong message for the current situation and beautifully conveyed in nicely repetitive text and imaginative use of typography as well glorious colour. A really worthwhile addition to the library.
April 2020 Debut of the Month | Margaret Sturton announces herself as a major picture book talent with her debut. Little rabbit Herbert loves foxes. Indeed, he loves them so much he wants to be one, making himself a pair of fox ears and a tail. At first his mummy is amused, then angry when he messes up the living room with red paint and cuts up her dress to make a tail. When she sees him out playing as a fox, despite her instruction to be a ‘good little rabbit’, she is cross again, until she suddenly realises how important it is to Herbert to be a fox. The story is full of comic moments and the little rabbit family will be recognisable to all readers. It’s also a wonderful story about identity and love, delivered lightly but most effectively. Highly recommended.
Nicola Davies celebrates the forthcoming 30th anniversary of the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child in this beautifully illustrated picture book. Using the metaphor of each child being a song, she explores some of the 54 rights it sets out, from the right to education, to freedom of thought and expression, to the rights of child refugees. Short, lyrical sentences of text will start discussion and conversation and Marc Martin’s rich water-colour illustrations, whether of children, scenes or vegetation, add movement and drama. A book to inspire children to think about the world and their place within it.
March 2020 Book of the Month | Iris takes refuge with her grandma, Mimi, to escape the chaos at home, caused by her two-year old twin siblings and her dad’s DIY repairs. There’s a different kind of disorder in Mimi’s house which is chock full of items collected over the years, chiefly boxes of photos she’s taken and developed. Among the photographs of other people’s weddings are family portraits and its one of these that sets Iris on a hunt to unravel an old mystery, even as Mimi’s memories are fading. The story is beautifully told, as much about Iris and her search for order and happiness as it is about Mimi and her struggle with dementia. A poignant, thoughtful examination of family relationships, memory and loss, that ends on a note of hope and renewal.
March 2020 Book of the Month | ‘My body is strong. My body can do amazing things. My body is my own.’ That’s the message for young girls to take from this comforting, uplifting and much-needed self-help guide. Our bodies are unique and amazing, it says, all of them, and there’s no one size, shape or colour that’s perfect. The message is demonstrated via colour illustrations featuring a range of young women happy with the way they look and who they are. The accompanying text reinforces this and also provides self-help tips for those times when you’re feeling down or insecure. There’s a really useful ‘Now What?’ section too full of self-care practices, while the jacket doubles as a poster for your wall, a self-care list for everyday life. It’s been carefully thought out from beginning to end, while illustrator Carol Rossetti’s young women feel like a group of friends cheering you on.
20 questions about life and the universe | This book was designed with bright, curious readers in mind and serves them really well. Author Jamia Wilson was just such a child, never happier than when asking questions about the hows and whys of the world (one of them being why most of the big thinkers in her schoolbooks were white European men). She sets out here to get young people thinking and debating too, posing big questions like ‘is God real?’ and ‘what is the imagination?’. She outlines the beliefs of different thinkers to provide a history of thought – often including quotes and short biographies – but emphasises that everyone picking up the book is a philosopher with equally meaningful, important views. Bursting with ideas, this will start all sorts of conversations and discussions, and open up a world of debate.
Very cleverly this gentle story links the astonishing tale of the migration of the tiny swift to find a safe nesting site in Africa, with the story of Leila, who also must travel thousands of miles to find a safe home. The parallel migrations mirror each other in the perils of the journey but also in the hope engendered by the welcome they receive in their new home. The passage of the brave bird and the places and people who mark the passing of the seasons by his journey is evocatively told and really highlights to young readers both the physical distance and the challenges of climate and geography. All of which subtly underscores the challenge for Leila and the physical and social challenges she will face. It is thought provoking but wonderfully hopeful too. As if the miracle of nature and the endeavours of the swift can act as an inspiration for human endurance and kindness as shown by the kindness of the welcome for Leila from other children. Manuela Adreani’s gorgeous, stylish illustrations are the perfect foil for the simple yet powerful text. With many cross curricular uses for older children as well this is a very worthwhile purchase.
Shortlisted for the CILIP Kate Greenaway Medal 2020 | Written for and about “the swift and sweet ones/who hurdled history and opened a world of possible”, for those who “survived America by any means necessary. And the ones who didn’t,” this is an inspiring ode to the author’s forebears and to the world-changing feats of unforgettable Black American figures. Author Kwame Alexander’s initial inspiration for this book came in the year his second daughter was born, the same year Barack Obama became the first African American president of the USA. As a result, Alexander wanted his daughters “to know how we got to this historic moment”, which is exactly what this stirring book does. The chained slaves who kept faith, the elite Olympians, the innovative musicians, the seminal scientists, the courageous activists - people from all walks of life are celebrated in Alexander’s poetically poised words, and gloriously illustrated by Kadir Nelson, with much for young children to ponder and ask questions about. As well as being a wonderful way for parents to explore Black American history with their little ones on a one-to-one basis, this will also work well with older children in a classroom context. Indeed, this is one of those rare and wonderful picture books that defies age boundaries - a radiant, resonant unforgettable tour de force, as befits its theme.
February 2020 Debut of the Month | There’s a lovely ‘what if’ challenge in this quirky and inspiring picture book. Little Nara is an expert hat maker, creating beautiful hats for the animals in her forest studio. One day she receives a letter from a new customer – can she make a hat for Mr Mountain no less? She rises to the challenge, trying out various different materials before finding exactly the right way to make a hat for a mountain. The story unfolds beautifully, and it makes a great tale of friendship, creativity and ingenuity. There’s lots to discuss while reading and this could prompt interesting STEM conversations or projects too. This is Soojin Kwak’s debut and she is definitely an illustrator to watch.
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.
Most people like good, but Sofia likes better. When her Abuelo (Grandad) hurts himself on a mountain of rubbish outside their local landfill site, she determines to take action and turn ‘Mount Trashmore’ into a park. It’s not easy, and she needs all her courage to enter City Hall and put her ideas to the grown-ups in charge. With the help of friends and neighbours, Sofia proves that everyone has the power to change their world. It’s another uplifting and positive story in the thoroughly excellent The Questioneers series, and go-getter Sofia is a wonderful role-model for us all. Credit to David Roberts for his typically stylish and action-packed illustrations too.
The Power of Women's Voices | International in scope and sweeping in history, Yvette Cooper’s She Speaks compendium gives voice to a dazzlingly diversity of powerful speeches selected on the basis of them being delivered by “women who believe in using words to build a better world, and persuading others to join them as they do so.” The introduction is both inspirational and edifying, with Cooper surveying the hostile landscape women have traversed - and still traverse - while making their voices heard, integrated with personal insights from her career as a Labour MP, Cabinet Minister and Secretary of State.Throughout it’s a joy to the savour the words and wisdom of dozens of seminal female figures, from Boudica’s stirring two thousand year-old polemic against violations of women, to Diane Abbott’s powerful 2019 House of Commons speech on the brutally unjust Windrush scandal. Other British women with political pedigree include the fabulously fierce Barbara Castle (her speech here is an exquisite example of sharp, scathing, socialist-minded oratory), Jo Cox, with her poignant maiden speech as an MP, Yvette Cooper herself, and former Conservative Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher. While it might seem out of place for Cooper to re-amplify the Iron Lady’s inflammatory “ideological assault on the public sector” by including her “the lady’s not for turning” speech, she frames the decision by referring to Thatcher’s mould-breaking persona and indestructible self-belief. Thatcher’s inclusion is also testament to the gracious spirit that runs through the anthology. Indeed, Theresa May’s speech on modernising the Conservative party is also included.Beyond Britain we hear from Audre Lorde, Benazir Bhutto and Michelle Obama; from razor-witted US Congresswoman Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, Nigerian novelist and feminist Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie, and young education campaigner Malala Yousafzai. I was especially stirred by the 1851 speech of Sojourner Truth, a former slave turned activist whose work saw her campaign against slavery and champion women’s rights, and whose words sang for the oppressed. The last words are given to Greta Thunberg because “no one speaks about the future with more clarity or urgency than Greta Thunberg”.“She Speaks, I must listen”, Cooper writes in her introduction and this finely-curated anthology will certainly inspire readers of all ages to pay close attention to the women’s words it shares.
Smart, incisive, brimming with the breath of human experience and written with engaging age-appropriate verve, this clever concept (“a tale told in ten blocks”) is perfectly executed. For the chorus of kids whose lives play out on these impeccably-written pages, the walk home from school represents a rare time of freedom; a period of limbo between being under the watchful eyes of teachers and parents. Unsupervised, the kids reveal their true selves, most of them dealing with hidden heartache and anxieties alongside goofing around, self-reflecting and navigating their way through Middle School. As always with Jason Reynolds, the characterisation is ingeniously vivid, with deep insights expressed through, for example, the different ways kids open their lockers. Many of the stories are intensely poignant, such as that of the Low Cuts crew whose bad behaviour is fuelled by a desperate love for their sick parents. The moment it turns out that Bit the hustler is a “son who was scared. A son who loved his mum” is shatteringly powerful. There’s much humour too, such as the laugh-out-loud scene in which smelly Gregory is slathered in VaporRub by friends seeking to beautify him before he visits a girl he’s keen on. Bittersweet, hard-hitting and powerfully perceptive, these pitch-perfect reader-centric stories shine a light on oft-overlooked lives and ring with empathy and authenticity.
Winner of the Blue Peter Book Awards 2020, Best Book with Facts | Young people looking for inspiration will find it in the true stories told in this book. In punchy, direct text and eye-catching illustrations it introduces 29 young people who have each done something extraordinary and overcome the challenges facing them. Some of them are famous already, their names known across the world: Malala Yousafzai, Greta Thunberg. Other names are less well known but their stories are just as inspirational: Ayesha Farooq, Pakistan’s first female fighter pilot; young Malawian inventor William Kamkwamba. Alongside their stories are tips for readers on how to get your voice heard or, accompanying stories of amazing physical feats, how to push yourself beyond what you think is possible. It’s a book to show just how much can be achieved with courage and determination.
Poems to help you change the world | Highlighted as a recommended read for National Poetry Day (3rd October), three of our best poets for children come together in this excellent new anthology with a challenge for their young audience: go out and help change the world. Alongside poems on the many threats to the environment and the natural world are poems that pose ‘tricky questions’ about how we choose to live. There are poems to make children laugh, to inspire them and inform them; above all here are poems that will provoke a reaction. It might be something practical, like deciding to change the contents of your lunchbox, or it might mean making a change to the way you understand the world. It ends with Liz Brownlee’s quiet but powerful poem ‘Snow’, a beautiful example of how the smallest things can effect change.
Longlisted for the UKLA Book Awards 2020 | Free to Be Me is a LGBTQ+ journal that joyfully celebrates the power of being yourself and loving who you are. It is written and illustrated by Dom & Ink, whose passion, voice and experience make this such a welcome addition to the genre of journaling.
May 2019 Debut of the Month | This bright, busy book – the text delivered via an irresistible bouncy rhyme – presents children with lots to look at, and lots to think about too. The story is told by a parent, who excitedly details all the world has to offer, and all the potential for children to find happiness and fulfilment as they grow up. There are warnings too that it’s not always easy, but that’s followed by the reassuring reminder that whatever happens, one thing won’t change: from your head down to you toe, no matter what/ I love you so. The artwork is contemporary but the message is timeless and it’s an excellent book for parent and child to share.
Longlisted for the UKLA Book Awards 2020 | This book tells the positive and inspiring stories of men, across age, race, culture and experience, who have fought conventional stereotypes to prove that modern-day masculinity can be defined freely. A stylish, colourful and groovy delight.
Featuring the stories and achievements of 52 women and girls across the world currently fighting to impove the lives of others.
Shortlisted for the CILIP Carnegie Medal 2020 | February 2019 Book of the Month | Shortlisted for the Children's Book Award 2020 | | Under-your-skin powerful novel about a talented young black woman who refuses to be silenced. Bri is a smart hip-hop writer from rough, tough Garden Heights, the same housing project that provided the setting for Thomas’s remarkable debut, The Hate U Give. Her underground rap legend dad was murdered twelve years ago, leading to her (now clean) mom seeking solace in drugs. Bri’s dad’s legacy means she has a hell of a lot of baggage when she performs at a big open mic event. While she chokes the first round after being goaded by her opponent in a scene that will have you desperately urging her on, Bri’s powerful lyrics and performance mark her out as something special. But as her hip-hop reputation is on the rise, so other aspects of her life take a downturn. There’s serious money trouble at home, and at school she’s unjustly suspended, the latter of which leads to her writing the track that further rockets her reputation, “On the Come Up”. But this brings further struggle. There’s the racism of black women being labeled “aggressive” for merely expressing their views. There’s a painful falling out with “tight since womb days” friend Malik. And there’s a cruel conflict between self-preservation (shutting up and putting up to avoid being wrongly locked up, or worse) in a racist society, and the heightened need to speak out precisely because of this situation. Impeccably plotted, with a multiple storylines woven to a pulse-pounding conclusion, this is an astoundingly affecting novel that shines a light on the struggles of young black women, and celebrates freedom of speech and making noise about who you are, as seen through unforgettable Bri, a 100% authentic character whom readers will root for, cry for, yell out loud for, and grin for joy with.
February 2019 Book of the Month | Here’s another inspiring, information-packed picture book in what’s becoming something of a series (see also Great Women Who Made History and Fantastically Great Women Who Changed the World). It tells the stories of pioneering women who achieved amazing things, often in the face of prejudice or downright hostility from society. There are familiar names – Rosalind Franklin is included – plus lots that are lesser known, but just as fascinating: balloonist Sophie Blanchard for example, and Sarah Breedlove, beauty entrepreneur. Their stories are told through lively, engaging text and pictures, it’s a treat to read. Kate Pankhurst is something of a fantastically great woman herself, and there’s lots for all readers to marvel at and enjoy in this book.
With stylish and quirky illustrations and extra facts at the back, this empowering series celebrates the important life stories of wonderful people of the world. From designers and artists to scientists, all of them went on to achieve incredible things, yet all of them began life as a little child with a dream. These books make the lives of these role models accessible for children, providing a powerful message to inspire the next generation of outstanding people who will change the world! Little People, Big Dreams series include: Ada Lovelace Agatha Christie Amelia Earhart Anne Frank Audrey Hepburn Coco Chanel Ella Fitzgerald Emmeline Pankhurst Frida Kahlo Georgia O’Keeffe Harriet Tubman Jane Austen Jane Goodall Josephine Baker Lucy Maud Montgomery Maria Montesorri Marie Curie Maya Angelou Mother Teresa Muhammed Ali Rosa Parks Simone de Beauvoir Stephen Hawking Vivienne Westwood We have a special category for the Little People, Big Dreams series. Click here to view them all.
Longlisted for the UKLA Book Awards 2020 | | Pitch perfect characterisation in a powerful story that shows how talent and support can turn a life around. This first book in the four part Run series is a world class middle grade story with all the witty tenderness of Louis Sachar and a whole lot of heart, humour and edge-of-your-seat action. Castle Cranshaw (better known as Ghost) discovered his talent for running the night he and his mom fled his violent dad. “Running isn’t anything I ever had to practice. It’s just something I knew how to do”, he explains. Hassled at school for his Mom-made haircuts, and constantly trying to avoid “altercations” that wind up making his school file bulge, Ghost’s life takes an upward turn when he spontaneously races a budding elite sprinter at a training session and wins. The coach, a former Olympic gold medalist, immediately invites him to join the team and they form a heart-melting bond fuelled by friendly sparring. Coach is exactly the mentor Ghost and his diverse bunch of talented teammates need. Ghost’s voice is endearingly authentic, honest and funny - pitch-perfect for his age and the novel’s readership. His “No! Don’t do it!” decisions and ensuing scrapes are evoked with intensity and humour (just wait for the “silver bullet” incident). Truly I cannot wait to spend more time in the company of Coach, Ghost and his teammates, each of whom will feature in future books in the series.
Full of well known names but avoiding macho stereotypes Instead it celebrates qualities of the individuals that make them worthy of respect, such as kindness and compassion. Well written, and very positive throughout.
Encompassing works from ancient sages, classic poets, well-known thinkers and emerging contemporary innovators from all walks of life, this involving, inclusive collection inspires, entertains, enthrals and emboldens. Alongside enjoying the work of widely-esteemed names (including Sappho, George Eliot, Sylvia Plath, Carol Ann Duffy, Jackie Kay, Christina Rosetti, Maya Angelou, Emily Dickinson and Margaret Atwood), it was a pleasure to discover contemporary poets whose work I shall seek out, among them Ruth Awola and Remi Graves, and lesser-known names from the past, for example Edith Södergran and Astrid Hjertenaes Andersen. If the diversity of voices is rich, so too are the themes, with growing up, friendship, love, nature, body image and protest covered in staggering depth and diversity. This varied chorus of bold, incisive voices makes for a collection to be savoured and shared.
A book that touches on many topics of interest today - and how one moment's action can result in a society struggling to deal with the aftermath - a gripping read.
Winner for the CILIP Carnegie Medal 2019 | Highly Commended in the UKLA Book Awards 2019 | Winner of the 2018 National Book Award | Xiomara Batista is a Harlem teenager whose parents moved to the US from the Dominican Republic. She has plenty of thoughts, plenty to say, but she’s been rendered voiceless by her domineering mother, by religion, and by the boys and men who objectify her body. She gets “all this attention from guys/but it’s like a sancocho of emotions… partly flattered they think I’m attractive, partly scared they’re only interested in my ass and boobs”. Such is the experience of many young women, but for Xiomara this is exacerbated by racism and her judgmental religious community, and powerfully expressed in her inimitable narrative voice. Talking of which, through the sexual insults, and despite her mother’s meting of cruel punishments, Xiomara does find her voice. She keeps a secret notebook of poems, and dreams of joining a slam poetry club. And she finds love too, with Trinidad-born Aman, a compassionate young man with family heartache of his own. Xiomara’s descriptions of their burgeoning relationship are stunning, evoking first love and passion in all its visceral beauty. Somehow, Xiomara pulls herself free from a mire of obstacles. She stands tall, she burns bright - a wondrously authentic character who finds her own faith through writing poetry. Highly recommended for fans of Nicola Yoon, Angie Thomas and Sarah Crossan, this is a dazzlingly affecting feat.
Table tennis champion Matthew Syed offers his very best advice on how all children can help themselves to become better at anything they put their hand to. Divided up into stories, visuals, charts and brief inspirational messages Matthew Syed is inspiring and uplifting as he address his readers. He stresses the importance of creating a confident mindset and argues that, armed with self-belief, anyone can achieve amazing things both mentally and physically. A book to browse and revisit again and again for the useful ways it exhorts and coaxes all readers to make the best of themselves.
Some of the best female writers have produced fabulously entertaining short stories to inspire and motivate the next generation of female activists.
Strikingly illustrated this is a tale which inspires children to dare to be different and have the courage to stand out.
A collection with poetry as varied and extraordinary as the women it celebrates. New poems by three of our brightest and liveliest poets are gathered together in this anthology which celebrates women and girls, lots of them. The lives of the really famous – Malala, Frida Kahlo, Amy Johnson, Hillary Rodham Clinton – are discussed, the roles of women in fairy tales debated, and the achievements of women whose names we’ll never learn acknowledged too. The poem styles are as varied as the book’s subjects, and there are poems to make you laugh, to make you angry, to make you think. It’s a sparkling collection, inspiring and empowering. Buy copies for all the young people in your life.
Adapted for younger readers the astonishing and inspiring story of the youngest ever winner of the Nobel Peace Prize.