Category archives: books for children and young people

Thursday, 3 August 2017

Some fabulous picture books

SloughIt was lovely to see this girl immersed in her picture book during a library visit last week. And what a fantastic time it is for picture books. These have particularly delighted, impressed, moved and/or intrigued me in recent months. (Not all are new, just newish discoveries for me.)

A Lion in Paris by Beatrice Alamagna
Quiet by Katie Alizadeh
Sam and Dave Dig a Hole by Mac Barnett and Jon Klassen
Welcome by Barroux
Ada Twist Scientist by Andrea Beaty and David Roberts
The Fox and the Star by Coralie Bickford-Smith
Baking with Dad by Aurora Cacciapuoti
The Cloud by Hannah Cumming
King of the Sky by Nicola Davies and Laura Carlin
The Pond by Nicola Davies and Cathy Fisher
If I Had a Dinosaur by Gabby Dawnay and Alex Barrow
The Day the Crayons Came Home by Drew Daywalt and Oliver Jeffers
I am Henry Finch by Alexis Deacon and Vivianne Schwarz
The Knight Who Wouldn’t Fight by Helen Docherty and Thomas Docherty
The Everywhere Bear by Julia Donaldson and Rebecca Cobb
The Boy Who Lost His Bumble by Trudi Esberger
A Child of Books by Oliver Jeffers and Sam Winston
Here I Am by Patti Kim and Sonia Sánchez
15 Things Not to Do with a Granny by Margaret McAllister and Holly Sterling
Zeki Can Swim by Anna McQuinn and Ruth Hearson
The Bear and the Piano by David Litchfield
My Name is Not Refugee by Kate Milner
One Cheetah One Cherry by Jackie Morris
Ossiri and the Bala Mengro by Katharine Quarmby and Richard O’Neill
The Journey by Francesca Sanna
Mi and Museum City by Linda Sarah
How to Find Gold by Viviane Schwarz
A Rainbow in My Pocket by Ali Seidabadi and Hoda Haddadi
Grandpa Green by Lane Smith
How to Hide a Lion at School by Helen Stephens
There’s a Tiger in the Garden by Lizzie Stewart
Sun by Sam Usher

Thursday, 25 May 2017

Children’s books in translation

IBBYI was very lucky to attend the IBBY UK event on books in translation this week. Translator and children’s book expert Daniel Hahn chaired a fascinating panel discussion with Helen Wang, winner of the Marsh Award for Children’s Literature in Translation for her translation of Bronze and Sunflower by Cao Wenxaun; Joy Court, books editor of The School Librarian and co-editor with Daniel of Riveting Reads: A World of Books in Translation; and Sarah Ardizzone, whose renditions into English of a wide variety of French books have won many plaudits and prizes. (I made a very small contribution to the Riveting Reads book, championing Sarah’s superb translation of Alpha by Barroux.)

The panellists talked first about the importance of children’s books in translation. Without them children miss out. They miss out both on books that are culturally specific and books that are universal. Children need books that are windows, doors and mirrors, Joy said, quoting the famous words of Rudine Sims Bishop. Children have the right to be omnivorous, Sarah told us, paraphrasing her own translation of part of Daniel Pennac’s wonderful book The Rights of the Reader.

People often think of translated books as worthy, but thankfully most are not. They are just great reads. Thankfully too, the amount of books available is growing, though publishers rarely see a good financial return on them. Prizes for books in translation raise their profile and give translators the validation they deserve. Books in translation can now be nominated for the Carnegie and Greenaway awards which has increased their exposure. One, Wild Animals of the North by Dieter Braun and translated by Jen Calleja, reached the Greenaway shortlist this year. Hopefully the Riveting Reads publication will also build awareness of the wealth of fabulous titles that children can enjoy.

It was particularly interesting to hear about the role of the translator. Daniel described it as a mix of artistry, craft and creativity. Translators need to be editors. As Joy said, the literary quality of a translated book is all down to the skills of the translator. Translating the words is just the start of the process, Sarah explained. Helen spoke about the work involved – seven drafts to achieve something that reads well. All asserted in one way or another that the key is to be true to the spirit rather than the letter of the original text. Metaphors are apparently particularly tricky. We heard that it is crucial not to over-edit: not to produce a book that is beautiful to read but smoothes out the quirks of the original. The quirks can be what make a book, but translating them into the appropriate vernacular is an extremely hard task.

A great evening, full of insights, and very thought-provoking. Thank you IBBY!

Friday, 5 May 2017

Books for children and young people – sources of information, recommendations, reviews and lists

IMG_4114I’m often asked how to find out about good children’s and teenage books. Here are links to websites and journals that I find particularly useful.

All these are valuable sources of book reviews, and each also has interesting articles about the wider children’s book world: Books for Keeps, School Librarian, Carousel Guide to Children’s Books and Armadillo Magazine. (I should perhaps point out that write reviews for both Armadillo and School Librarian.)

Book Trust is an invaluable source of information about books for children and teenagers. I find their Book Finder extremely helpful.

I’m also a big fan of the Scottish Book Trust. Their themed children’s booklists are excellent, as are their lists of books for teenagers.

Love Reading 4 Kids and Love Reading 4 Schools have good lists and recommendations.

Schools library services, for those lucky enough to have one nearby (find out from this list), have wonderful book knowledge and huge expertise in providing book collections geared to individual schools’ curriculum needs.

School librarians are supremely knowledgeable about good books to enthuse students about reading and to support the curriculum.

For those working in the primary sector Core Books Online contains well curated booklists and information.

Books for Topics is great for anyone seeking ideas for books to support primary curriculum topics.

Letterbox Library is a fantastic source of inclusive books. Their themed booklists are exceptionally useful.

Books can be of great therapeutic value. Healthy Books provides themed lists of children’s books on specific emotional and physical needs.

The Federation of Children’s Book Groups has lists on a variety of themes.

I recommend the School Library Association Riveting Reads. I’m proud to have contributed in a tiny way to the latest one, A World of Books in Translation.

It’s worth keeping an eye on book award winners. IBBY UK has a useful overview of major national and international prizes. The Heart of the School site has another valuable list, including local book awards.

Finally, I find Twitter enormously helpful for keeping up to date. Almost all of the sites and organisations I’ve listed have good Twitter feeds. The book review page on my website contains a book bite section, with book items that have caught my attention on Twitter, or that I have tweeted about.

Friday, 21 April 2017

Books for children and young people about refugees and migration

journeyA couple of months ago I was lucky enough to hear Francesca Sanna talk about the inception of her prize-winning picture book The Journey. She spoke to many children and adults in a refugee centre. Her wonderful and thought-provoking book is an amalgamation of the stories of their journeys. The illustrations are stunning. Ever since then, I have been intending to do a blog that pulls together other great children’s books published in the last few years on the themes of refugees and migration. Here it is – by no means an exhaustive list, just books that I know and that impress me.

Firstly, a few other recent picture books. Welcome by Barroux, Ice in the Jungle by Ariane Hofmann-Maniyar and Refuge (about the birth of Jesus, focussing on the refugee aspect) by Anne Booth are exceptional. My Name is Not Refugee by Kate Milner is extremely valuable and very poignant. All suitable for young children. I also love Here I Am by Patti Kim. I’m a big fan of Azzi in Between by Sarah Garland for over 7s.

Novels now. Nadine Dreams of Home by Bernard Ashley is lovely and very accessible. A Story Like the Wind by Gill Lewis, which could not be hotter off the press, is superb and deeply moving. Red Leaves by Sita Brahmachari  and Deborah Ellis’s My Name is Parvana, a sequel to The Breadwinner Trilogy, are both outstanding. Two recent novels for older children and teenagers that have totally taken my breath away are Welcome to Nowhere by Elizabeth Laird and The Bone Sparrow by Zana Fraillon, which has been shortlisted for this year’s Carnegie medal. I cannot recommend them highly enough. While not ostensibly the main subject of SF Said’s magnificent novel Phoenix, the plight of refugees is one of its many nuanced themes.

Alpha by Barroux and Bessora is a brilliant and chilling graphic novel for teenagers (and adults).

Two excellent information books came out last year. Refugees and Migrants by Ceri Roberts is a great introduction to the subject for 6 year-olds and up. For older children Who Are Refugees and Migrants? by Michael Rosen and Annemarie Young is immensely valuable. Both books have good glossaries and indexes plus useful links to sources of further information.

Where Will I Live? by Rosemary McCarney is a book of forceful photographs of refugee children in a number of countries. The text is minimal but effective.

As I say, this is my pick of purely recent titles. Do take a look at these other lists, all of which include fantastic older books too:

Monday, 12 December 2016

Children’s and young people’s reading – some inspiring quotes

2016-booksI’m an inveterate collector of quotes about books and reading. Here are some that I’ve recently added to my quotes haul, illustrated with a few of the books for children and young people that have stood out for me in 2016.

If you can’t read, you can’t do anything when you get older — you can’t fill in forms, you can’t do jobs, you can’t run your life. If you can’t read, it’s gonna be your downfall. 10 year-old boy quoted in the Evening Standard

I believe good readers make better engineers, and bakers, and surgeons, and parents and partners and are just a lot happier. Frank Cottrell Boyce

To learn to read is to light a fire; every syllable that is spelled out is a spark. Victor Hugo

People would stand in line for days and pay hundreds of dollars if there were a pill that could do everything for a child that reading aloud does ….. Simply put, it’s a free oral vaccine for literacy. Jim Trelease

Reading should not be presented to children as a chore. It should be offered as a precious gift. Kate DiCamillo

Parents should leave books lying around marked ‘forbidden’ if they want their children to read. Doris Lessing

Books allow you to see the world through the eyes of others. Reading is an exercise in empathy; an exercise in walking in someone else’s shoes for a while. Malorie Blackman

Books are human relationship builders. Michael Levine

I love the idea that children’s books can be bridges connecting people, showing them that however different someone else might be, the things which unite us are greater than those which divide us. And that difference can be a source of richness: something to be celebrated, not feared. SF Said

I don’t want to write for adults. I want to write for readers who can perform miracles. Only children perform miracles when they read. Astrid Lindgren