Category archives: books for children and young people

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.

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

 

Wednesday, 9 November 2016

Marvellous Imaginations: Extending Thinking through Picture Books

As ever it was great to be at the NCRCL/IBBY national conference at the weekend. I’m a huge fan of picture books and all they offer, and make sure they feature highly on lots of my training courses training courses, so I loved the fact that the day was all about them.

klausThis is Klaus Flugge, long-standing champion of innovative picture books, with IBBY’s John Dunne and a cake in honour of Andersen Press’s 40th birthday.

Picture book expert Martin Salisbury was the first speaker. He talked compellingly about the importance of visual thinking. He celebrated the increasing blurring of the lines between writing and illustration and championed today’s pioneering breed of picture book makers who help readers see and understand the world in exciting new ways. He showed us some fabulous illustrated texts – I was delighted that one of these was The Girl with the Parrot on Her Head by Daisy Hirst – and threw in some very pertinent quotes. Here’s Saul Steinberg: ‘Drawing is a way of reasoning on paper.’ This is Corbusier: ‘I prefer drawing to talking. Drawing is faster, and leaves less room for lies.’

Lecturer Vivienne Smith told us picture books can and should be play. She drew out the parallels between them. Play in early years education is freely chosen and self-directed, spontaneous, whole-hearted, creative and imaginative, explorative, and a context in which learning happens. Exploration and playfulness are certainly not embraced in current discourse around reading, yet they are how children learn. Practitioners should aim to create playful readers, to combat the impression children can now get all too easily, that reading is just about getting the words right. Children need playful books that playfully challenge their thinking and help them learn they can make a difference. ‘Playful reading animates texts; roots texts in the imagination; allows texts to become significant and useful to the reader. Play gives texts an afterlife.’

We were then privileged to hear an inspiring panel of speakers discuss the power of picture books to develop children’s thinking, understanding and empathy. Miranda McKearney of Empathy Lab, Nicky Parker of Amnesty International, Harriet Goodman from Philosophy for Children and the chair, author Sita Brahmachari extolled picture books for providing a platform for raising questions and helping children to explore abstract ideas and concepts, as well as difficult issues and emotions. Picture books can fuel a sense of social justice and teach children that more unites than divides us. Mirror by Jeannie Baker and There’s a Bear on My Chair by Ross Collins, both of which I love and use a lot, were held up as just two examples. Picture books can create compassionate and critical thinkers who grasp the meaning of fairness and will be better able to stand up against bigotry and violence. Wonderful stuff!

Parallel session followed, and I was inspired again by the one I attended on how an international collection of silent picture books (or books without borders, to use Sita Brahmachari’s excellent phrase for wordless picture books) has been used to enormous effect with migrant children in Lampadusa and has galvanised children in a village in southern France. How moving to see the picture books the French children made for the children in Lampadusa being handed over. The IBBY Silent Books project aims to promote books as a tool for integration. Lovely to hear some of the ways in which that aim is being fulfilled.

Lunch next, and a chance to catch up with friends and colleagues, and to talk to some inspiring publishers. Then we heard lots of very positive NCRCL and IBBY news. The IBBY international congress in New Zealand sounded amazing.

It was good after this to listen to two illustrators talk about their craft. Laura Carlin and Carol Thompson were very interesting on the huge amount of thought and creativity they put into their books, so that they give enjoyment and provoke thinking and understanding.

Next Louise John Shepherd and Charlotte Hacking from CLPE explained the Power of Pictures project. This is helping teachers discover good picture book creators and learn how to read picture books, particularly interpreting the pictures. It is giving them confidence to use them and providing ideas for exploring them with their pupils. I frequently talk about the value of picture books in terms of inference and critical thinking, so was pleased to hear these benefits highlighted. I really liked this quote too, from Perry Nodelman: ‘The words tell us what the pictures don’t show, and the pictures show us what the words don’t tell us.’

I used to be a volunteer with the Reader Organisation, so was very pleased Jane Davies, its founder, was speaking. After telling everyone about the brilliant shared reading approach, and a wonderful project with looked after children, she outlined the latest Reader initiative, a fabulous story barn in Liverpool, ‘a place where reading helps imagination run wild’. I really want to visit it.

The conference drew to an end with a brief speech from Nicholas John Frith, winner of the inaugural Klaus Flugge prize for the most exciting newcomer to picture books illustration, and then that amazing cake. What a day!

Tuesday, 11 October 2016

Children’s and young people’s mental health: how reading can help, plus booklists and quotes

img_3525Some time ago I did a fascinating and illuminating online course on literature and mental health. It’s still available. Doctors, celebrities and academics shared moving insights about the ways in which reading can help people struggling with depression and other debilitating mental health issues. Mental health problems among children and young people are horribly prevalent. As someone who specialises in children’s and young people’s reading, I am particularly interested in the role that books and reading can play in supporting them, and also in spreading understanding about the issues. In the words of Frank Cottrell Boyce, a book is ‘the knife that picks the lock of your isolation.’

I have found these articles and booklists informative and helpful:

Holly Bourne (author of the wonderful Am I Normal Yet?) has written an excellent piece on mental health issues in YA fiction.

Read what two teenagers with mental health problems have to say about the importance of books – and the paucity of provision – in ‘Mental health and books: teenagers speak out’.

The Royal College of Psychiatrists has a list of books for pre-school to 12 year-old children on a wide range of mental health concerns. Letterbox Library supplies a good range of children’s books on mental health issues. Have a look too at Booktrust’s list, which includes both children’s and young adult titles.

Do read about the Reading Well scheme to support young people’s mental health in libraries. There’s a useful guide to the books available, organised by issue (eg bullying, self-harm, OCD, body image and eating disorders).

Young Minds has a list of young adult books that reflect mental health issues. There’s another valuable booklist from Madeleine Kuderick, author of Kiss of Broken Glass.

A few more quotes to end. Shami Chakrabarti tells us ‘Reading can bring the breeze of hope’. This is John Green: ‘Great books help you understand, and they help you feel understood.’ Matt Haig, who writes so brilliantly about depression, says in Reasons to Stay Alive that reading is important ‘because it gives you room to exist beyond the reality you’re given. Reading makes the world better.’ Finally, here’s Ben Okri: ‘Stories can conquer fear, you know. They can make the heart bigger.