18 Dec

I’m making the assumption that, as you are reading this blog, you share my belief that books can change lives. The belief that learning to read and having access to quality books is the most important thing for a child’s successful education. I truly believe that, and I work hard to introduce books and a love of reading into children’s lives. And that’s how I came across Give A Book and why I asked for help when my daughter’s school went into Special Measures and lost its entire book budget.

Give A Book is a wonderful organisation that was there for our school when we needed them. A UK registered charity, Give A Book facilitates the gift of books to selected charities and other organisations. Their aim is to get books to those who need them. They use donations to source new books at cost price, then package and post the books to selected charities, schools or organisations.

When our school went into Special Measures and we lost our entire book budget, Give A Book got in touch.

Thanks to the generosity and support of Give A Book’s donors, our school received a big box of fairytale early reader books. These books were used across all the classes in the school to help children learn to read, they supported the Early Years classes with their Fairytale topic and they gave the staff and children a much needed smile and morale boost. They spread through the school and they made a huge difference.

Whilst there is still a way to go, the school is on a journey of improvement and is now out of Special Measures – and much faster than initially anticipated! The children’s reading and writing has come a long way and there is a real sense of achievement and pride in their work. We wouldn’t have been able to achieve so much so quickly without the support of Give A Book and the others who helped us with our book budget crisis. Thank you!

Thankfully, our time of need has come to an end. But Give A Book keeps working and helping those that find themselves in need. Every donation you make buys and distributes a book to someone who – for differing reasons – might need one. You could be supporting prison book groups, magic breakfast book clubs, Beanstalk reading support, or a school that needs a helping hand. Have a look at some of the wonderful initiatives that Give A Book are supporting and help out if you can.

Gove stole our books but he couldn’t steal our learning

18 Dec

You may remember I wrote this post about my daughter’s primary school going into special measures and losing its entire book budget. I asked for help with books and was bowled over by the response.

Well guys, together, we did it! We have been told this week that the school is officially out of Special Measures! And in record time too.

I want to say a huge thank you to all the authors, illustrators, publishers and booky friends who supported the school by sending books, encouragement and messages of support. Particular thanks to Caryl Hart, Clara Vulliamy, Louie Stowell, Ellie Irving, Joanna Nadin, Anne Booth, Paula Harrison, Leigh Hodgkinson and for their generosity and kind words.

Together we stood up for education, for the importance of reading, and – most importantly- for the children. And we showed Gove that he can’t win against integrity and passion and honesty and a group of people who believe in the power of books. Bravo to us!!

A Very Brilliant Book Swap for IBGD

11 Dec

Hurrah! Today marks the beginning of the build up to International Book Giving Day!!

International Book Giving Day has a special place in my heart. It was for IBGD two years ago that I first started The Rainbow Library, with a new library for a local nursery. The Rainbow Library is still going strong and growing by the week and so is International Book Giving Day, now in its fourth year!

IBGD is on 14th February and aims to counter the commercialisation of Valentine’s Day by encouraging people to give a book and get books into the hands of as many children as possible. Every year, renowned illustrators create posters, bookmarks and book plates for International Book Giving Day and people around the world spread the love of reading by sharing books with children. It is a very warm and fuzzy, delicious day.

For IBGD 2015, award winning illustrator Chris Haughton has designed the IBGD poster – and it’s a stunner!

You can download your copies here.

And to celebrate all that is good and wonderful with IBGD, the lovely Zoe Toft from Playing By The Book is hosting a worldwide bookswap which I’m really excited about and I hope you all join in with.


Zoe says:
“#GiveABook, #SwapABook is all about sharing, sending and receiving wonderful, indeed brilliant children’s books. It will be a way for you to spread the word about a children’s book you are passionate about, and to discover another equally amazing book through a gift from someone else.
Here’s how it will work:
You’ll sign up and I will pair you with one other children’s book lover. You will send each other a book that you think is the best of the best. You’ll read your new book, fall in love with it and (hopefully) set off on a new adventure with its beautiful writing and/or its gorgeous illustrations spinning away in your head.
Anyone can sign up (whether or not you have a blog, whether or not you have children) but when you sign up what you’re agreeing to is purchasing and posting a lovely book to your partner. You in return will receive a lovely gift of a book back.”

What’s not to love? I’ve signed up, and You can too, right here.

I am Making Plans for IBGD 2015. There is plotting going on. Coffee-drinking, biscuit-eating, strokey-chin kind of plotting. I am very much looking forward to sharing it with you all very soon, but in the meantime, download your posters, share them everywhere, and sign up for Zoe’s Very Brilliant Book Swap. Enjoy!

Christmas Countdown Week 1

9 Dec

The Advent Book Tree of Joy is working its magic again this year. With one book to open each night in the build up to Christmas, the first week has brought back some old favourites…


Are You Ready For Christmas

Santa is Coming to Sussex

The Lion, the Unicorn and Me

Winter’s Child
(For a chance to win a copy of Winter’s Child, visit my previous post!)

And introduced some new…


The Christmas Show by Rebecca Patterson (Macmillan) is a joy to read. A heart warming story that captures the essence of the school play beautifully. Told from the point of view of a little boy who is not entirely sure what his role is, children will relate to and laugh along with the ups and downs of rehearsals. It is also brilliantly funny for any parents and teachers who have been through one too many school Christmas shows in their time -the illustrations show the truth behind the tinsel. Nose-picking, wardrobe malfunctions, grumpy angels and the small child in his own world in the middle of the stage. With loads going on in Rebecca Patterson’s full of character illustrations, I think this is one we’ll come back to year after year in the build up to our own Christmas Show. It also makes a really awesome present for stressed out teachers at this time of year!

Usborne Christmas Stories for Little Children
Look at that… for children! Not for boys or for girls but actually for all children. Woo hoo!!! I love that this book has been marketed for kids and is beautifully non gender-stereotyped. This collection of six stories is a lovely addition to our advent tree. Mollie loves the humour in the stories and I love their traditional Christmas feel. Fun stories that celebrate trying your best, believing in yourself and being kind to others. What’s not to love?

Santa’s Christmas Handbook by Santa’s Elves (Templar).
This book is AMAZING!
Written by Santa’s elves (with a little help from Christopher Edge) Santa’s Christmas Handbook contains everything he needs to know to make the Christmas deliveries run smoothly. With help on reindeer care, navigation, present refilling and delivering, rooftop and chimney safety and a full explanation of all the new gadgets on Santa’s sleigh, I’m pretty confident that Santa is going to have the easiest Christmas Eve yet. The book contains loads of fun information, flaps to lift, games to play and even an insta-chimney. There really is tons to look at and play with in this book. I am hooked!


A perfect Christmas Eve present to keep over-excited children entertained and really build up the magic.

Source- Santa’s Christmas Handbook, The Christmas Show, Usborne Christmas Stories for Little Childrenall bought for The Advent Book Tree of Joy.

A new partnership for The Rainbow Library

4 Dec

The Rainbow Library has always been about getting books into the hands of the children who really need them. That’s why I set up libraries in local nurseries, primary schools and community groups that cater for children from disadvantaged areas. I have had some lovely success stories and have seen children go from using The Rainbow Library to signing up at the town library and learning to read fluently. It is such a joy to support these kids.

And that’s why I have started a new partnership with a charity who directly support children from disadvantaged areas.

Home-Start helps families with young children deal with whatever life throws at them. They provide one to one support for parents through their volunteer scheme. Volunteers visit the family’s home for a couple of hours every week and tailor-make their support to the needs of the parents and children. They support parents as they learn to cope, improve their confidence and build better lives for their children. This is hands-on support right at the most crucial time in children’s development. I really believe in Home-Start and the difference they make to children’s lives.

I will be working with Home-Start to supply them with new and gently used quality books for the children they support across Sussex. These books will be given to the children to keep and will help the volunteers to support their families. I delivered the first crate of books to my local branch earlier this week – just in time for the children to get a new book each before Christmas.

The first five years of a child’s life are crucial for their development and well-being and have a direct impact on their future opportunities. I know I am preaching to the converted, but adding books into the mix here will help support these children reach and fulfil their potential.

I am really proud to support Home-Start and am excited about what we can achieve together.

Here’s half of the first delivery:


How can you help?
Support local.
Have a look for a Home-Start branch locally to you. Perhaps you could donate some books directly to them?
Pop a present in the post.
I will be putting together the next box of books for Home-Start in the New Year. You can help Home-Start’s wonderful volunteers to get books into the hands of the children who really need them by popping a book in the post for me to include in their next delivery. Why not add a book to your Christmas shopping list, or dig out a book that has been gently loved but is no longer read. Home-Start work with families with children under five but often there are older siblings, so any children’s books will be gratefully received. Anything that is sent to me labelled for Home-Start will make its way to the Home-Start children in the new year.

Carmen Haselup
The Rainbow Library
19 Headland Way
East Sussex

Finally, a huge thank you to all the publishers, authors, illustrators and booky peeps who send me books. I really couldn’t keep The Rainbow Library going without you. Special thanks to Sam Lloyd, Clara Vulliamy, Hilary McKay and Elli Woollard for donating their beautiful books to The Rainbow Library, some of which are on their way to Home-Start children as you read this. Thanks to Pavilion, Hodder, Orchard, Templar, Big Picture Press, Gecko, Bounce, ChildsPlay, Faber and Faber, Allen & Unwin, PatrickGeorge, Parragon, Salariyah and Frances Lincoln who have sent wonderful review books that have been included in the first Home-Start delivery. And last but not least, big hugs to Caroline Martin and Emily for passing on such well loved and well looked after books.

Here’s to a Merry booky Christmas and a Happy New partnership!
I’ll keep you all posted :)

The countdown to Christmas

1 Dec

I have my Christmas socks on and the house is covered in glitter. My coffee is flavoured with gingerbread and there’s mince pie crumbs in the kitchen. Hurrah!!!! It must be time to bring out this year’s advent book tree!!


A mix of old favourites to be rediscovered and new friends to be made. The eagle eyed amongst you will have noticed that there are more than 24 in this stack. I just couldn’t stop!!! I was given so many delicious recommendations last year and some beautiful new books have been published this year. What’s a girl to do?

Stay tuned and I’ll post some of our favourites as they are opened. And please do join in and share your favourites – I have some wrapping paper left!!

Happy advent everyone! Go and treat yourself to a mince pie :)

National Non-Fiction November – PatrickGeorge

29 Nov

PatrickGeorge publish very funky and clever non-fiction books.


They have a wonderful way of playing with words and images that delights and enthrals children – and adults. Their books have become firm favourites at The Rainbow Libraries. The children are completely mesmerised by them.

We all know that children learn best when they play and these books beg to be played with. Bright and bold with that brilliant mix of interaction and humour, and just a touch of magic, PatrickGeorge books use transparent pages to transform images. Before their very eyes, trees transform (Colours)…


Birds are freed (Opposites)…


And sharks appear from nowhere (Oh No!)…



My Big Book Of The Five Senses uses a similar magical approach but without the aid of transparent pages. The illustrations work for themselves and encourage children to think about what they see, play around with words and images and what things mean.



It’s delicious to watch children making a bee-line for these books and interacting with them with wide-eyed exploration, poky-tongued concentration, and pointy-fingered laughter. These are books that encourage children to make things happen and to discuss what they see and learn. And that is what books, particularly non-fiction books, should be all about. Bravo, PatrickGeorge!

Source- kindly donated to The Rainbow Library by PatrickGeorge.

NNFN – Mad About Mega Beasts

27 Nov

The line between fiction and non-fiction is thin and often blurry. Many non-fiction books use a narrative or other elements of fiction writing to get their information across. Mad About Mega Beasts by Giles ‘Giraffes Can’t Dance’ Andreae and David Wojtowycz uses verse to create a kind of non linear narrative.

Children will meet mega beasts such as the giant manta ray, the wooly mammoth and the Siberian tiger. Tucked between an introductory verse and a rhyming conclusion, each double page spread introduces a new mega beast with a bold and bright illustration and a funny verse. Each verse includes some high level information about the mega beasts in a brilliantly child friendly way.

There’s also a mini beast or two to spot on every page.

A smidge larger than A4, this is a big, bold and beautiful book for children. Full of colour and fun and completely free of any gender stereotyping. Just look at the colours used in the manta ray picture! Delicious!

A lovely way of introducing very young children to finding-out books, Mad About Mega Beasts is the newest in a fantastic series. And my new favourite!

Source: kindly sent for review by the publisher, Orchard books.

National Non Fiction November – Usborne spotlight

5 Nov

Usborne, Usborne… How I do love you!
Usborne publish awesome non fiction. Finding out books, activity books, spotter’s guides, they do the lot…and they do them well! Their design is always spot on and they are immensely interactive, entertaining and kid friendly. Best of all, Usborne are very good at keeping their finding out books clear of gender stereotyping. Their books about animal facts don’t go all pink and sparkly when it’s about kittens or black and shouty when it’s about sharks. These books are for all children. And they are a million times better for it. Bravo, Usborne!

Here’s a round up of some of our favourite Usborne finding out books:


For little fingers, the Peep Inside series illustrated by Simona Dimitri is stunning. Peep Inside the Zoo and Peep Inside Animal Homes are full of loads of fun flaps to lift and facts to find out. You can read my review of them here.


Usborne’s Lift the Flap series is a real winner with loads of information and big flaps for children to lift and engage with. This series really makes the most of the format, using the flaps to show children information in an interactive way. This is something I think Usborne really excel at. The books in this range are large – picture book sized, perfect for pre-school children and above. Our favourite is the shark book with it’s strange and menacing goblin shark. *shudder*

I really love these books! The Usborne Beginners series is a beautiful fit for newly independent readers or children who are just getting the hang of it. These A5 sized books are packed with fascinating facts and the short snappy sentences support independent fact-finding missions – perfect for those early homework projects. There are more than 60 titles in this series, so certainly something for everyone. Each book has a contents, index, and glossary page to help children learn how finding out books work, and a link to websites to explore the topic further. A great mix of photographs and illustrations and a new sub-topic on each double page spread make these books brilliant for reading from cover to cover as well as dipping in and out of. They are wonderful! You can snap up a starter set of 20 books here.

20141105-140048-50448441.jpgFor slightly older children, or children who crave more information, The Usborne Little Encyclopedia of Animals is a beauty of a book with a huge amount of information and loads of links for curious minds to follow to find out more. This is definitely a step up in content but without losing any of the Usborne joy.


The See Inside range is a stonkingly good series of books covering a wealth of topics. They are a4 sized hardbacks crammed full with information and diagrams and hundreds of flaps to lift to see what’s going on inside. The level of information in these books suits inquisitive minds, and they can get quite technical, but there’s so much to look at that they work across a broad age range. See Inside Your Body was Mollie’s favourite book in the world when she was 3 and she still loves to look through it now nearly 3 years on. They really do grow with children – a sure sign of a quality, well-designed series!


And last, but certainly not least, are these two gems. The Usborne First Illustrated Maths Dictionary and it’s Science counterpart. These are every parent/carer’s best friend! No more tricky homework explanations- these books are easy to use and have fantastic illustrated examples throughout. The science dictionary explains terms and gives ideas for experiments and projects and the maths dictionary uses plain everyday language to explain and illustrate maths concepts to children (and the grown ups scratching their heads next to them). Brilliant!

Bravo, Usborne! And hurrah for fantastic finding out books!

Source – all books from the rhino reading rooms.

National Non Fiction November

5 Nov

Welcome to National Non Fiction November!

Non fiction often gets lost and overlooked in the vast world of children’s books. A crying shame because kids love it! Children are sponges. They suck up information and relish the feeling of finding out a new cool fact. Many children prefer non-fiction to fiction. And yet non fiction is so left behind that even its name reinforces its place as other. Non fiction. This stuff is not fiction. It is other, something else, something less.


The label non fiction is often used to lump together everything that doesn’t fit under the fiction banner. Fact books, activity books, spotting books, abc and counting books… Everything that isn’t fiction. And yet non fiction books often cross over into the fiction domain. They can have strong narratives, characters, a story ark. And often the illustration and design are off the scale. So why are they so overlooked? It’s a messy business of labels and hierarchy. But these brilliant books are fighting back. Authors, illustrators and publishers are producing fantastic books that show off and celebrate the breadth and wonder that is the non fiction market. And this November, the Federation of Children’s Bookgroups are launching the very first National Non Fiction November, celebrating adventures in the real world.

For me, non fiction means ‘finding out books’. That is what we call them in our house, in an attempt to give them a name that means something to Mollie and describes the books for what they are. Finding out books – Brilliant books that help you find out about the world around you.
Hold the line please caller, because I’m going to shine a light on some of our favourites.


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