Little Rebels and Radical Acts of Kindness

11 May

I missed The London Radical Book Fair and the awarding of the Little Rebels Award on Saturday. We were away visiting family and I couldn’t make it. But I was there in spirit and via Twitter and it prompted a lot of thinking over the weekend. Allow me to share…

Letterbox Library’s Little Rebels Award celebrates radical children’s books; those that stand up for diversity, inclusion and above all, social justice. They are books that show children the world and how they can make it better. These books are the ones we should want our future leaders to be reading now. Books that let us imagine a future that stands against social injustice and discrimination. Hurrah for the Little Rebels shortlisted authors and winner, Gill Lewis! And for Letterbox Library who back the award. 

  

(Picture by Letterbox Library)

I will be honest, I really wanted Anne Booth‘s Girl With a White Dog to win. It is an exceptional book that deals with immigration, inclusion, and what can happen when people demonise difference. It is a book that awoke a real sense of social responsibility in the children I read it with. It is also a wonderful story, beautifully written. I wanted it to win because it warns about excluding people that are ‘other’, and it teaches children to look at the world with empathy and understanding and not to be led by propaganda. After Friday morning’s election results I felt like we needed this book more than ever. 

How do we deal with the fallout from last week’s election? So much disappointment and anger and incredulity. I think it’s easy to feel guilty for not doing enough before the elections, to blame others, and to feel helpless and despondent. But that won’t help those already being squashed and it won’t prevent further injustice. I think reading the shortlisted books would be a great place to start. Share them with your children, your friends’ children, donate them to your local school. Because these books could change the world. And let’s face it… We need a bit of that right now. 

When I heard the results on Friday morning I headed straight for Twitter and was so boosted by the positivity on my timeline. There was (is!) a real desire to work together to fight further cuts and act as a safety net for those who are being affected; to make things better. It has reminded me that real change happens not when political parties win elections, but when people take a stand against injustice, and are willing to fight for an inclusive future, together. My Twitter feed is full of booky peeps, journalists, artists, and theatre peeps. It is generally a very inclusive and forward thinking bunch. But the children’s authors especially were winning Twitter on Friday.

By 9am Friday morning, Michelle Robinson was calling for a mass donation to food banks to offset some of the Tory ugliness. Lots of us did. Later that day, thanks to Polly Faber, #foodbankfriday was born – a weekly food bank donation to support people who are being squashed by cuts. 

There was talk of our kindness being seen as support for Cameron’s Big Society. That he will take the credit for our actions. Well, let him. Just because he is a self-serving arrogant bigot doesn’t mean we have to follow his lead. Let’s be inclusive and empathetic and support those who are affected by the Government and their actions. Let’s help pick up the pieces. But let’s not do it quietly. 

  
Elli is absolutely right with her comment above. We mustn’t mop up the mess quietly. We must rage and raise awareness, we must support those who have the power and legal knowledge to fight the cuts and we must take action to stand up for what we believe in. Together. 

So let’s all be Little Rebels. Let’s make Radical Acts of Kindness. Let’s donate to food banks, volunteer, support, sustain. But let’s back up each act of kindness with action. Join a protest group, join an organisation that fights for justice, support them, donate to them so they can make change happen. And share it all on social media so that others can make their own Radical Acts of Kindness too. #LittleRebelRAK

Here’s my starter:

David Cameron wants to replace our Human Rights Act with his own leaner and meaner version- the British Bill of Rights and Responsibilities. Let’s not stand for that. Share your support here:

https://www.liberty-human-rights.org.uk/campaigning/save-our-human-rights-act

And here:

http://www.amnesty.org.uk/issues/Human-Rights-Act

The shortlisted books are available here:

Girl With a White Dog by Anne Booth (Catnip Books)

Grandma by Jessica Shepherd (Child’s Play)

Made by Raffi by Craig Pomranz, illustrated  by Margaret Chamberlain (Janetta Otter-Barry Books/Frances Lincoln)

Nadine Dreams of Home by Bernard Ashley (Barrington Stoke)

Pearl Power by Mel Elliott (I Love Mel)

Scarlet Ibis by Gill Lewis (Oxford University Press)

Shh! We Have a Plan by Chris Haughton (Walker Books)

Trouble on Cable Street by Joan Lingard (Catnip Books)

Too Close to Home : Aoife Walsh

24 Apr

carmenhaselup:

You know when you read a review and *know* that you *need* to read that book…. Well here’s one for you, courtesy of @chaletfan:

Originally posted on Did you ever stop to think and forget to start again?:

Too Close to HomeToo Close to Home by Aoife Walsh

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

I described this on Twitter as one for the ‘I write this sitting in the kitchen sink’ crowd. And it is; it’s a book full of complicated and complex and Casson-esque characters, all of them bumping against each other in their complicated and complex lives. Too Close To Home isn’t really about much on the surface (except, in a way, it’s about everything and perhaps that surface stillness is so very metaphorical for the book itself) but underneath it’s peddling away like mad. There’s Minny; central character (and oh I am full of semi-colons and punctuation in this review, but that’s this book – thoughts and movements and emotions and people all jumbling against each other and trying to find their space in life).

So. In an attempt to be precise:

1. Walsh’s prose is very classic…

View original 276 more words

The Story of Britain – history doesn’t have to be horrible

13 Apr

The Story of Britain by Mick Manning and Brita Granström has transformed the way we talk and learn about history in our family. Mollie is fascinated by history but is too young for the blood and guts versions that seem so prevalent at the moment. The Story of Britain is hugely accessible, full of information, and FUN. 

  

Beginning fifty thousand years ago with an explanation of how the British Isles were created and continuing chronologically through to the present day, The Story of Britain covers the key periods and historical figures that children will come across at school with tons of detail and brilliantly engaging illustrations.

We have used this book so much over the last few weeks, and it has worked – Mollie has referred back to it constantly. During a week in Wales she was fascinated to stand on the edge of a hillside and look down at the valley and see where the ice would have been. She found a piece of flint and declared it an original axe head. A piece of broken plant pot was a real Roman relic. This book has lit a fire of interest and there’s enough information here to fuel it for years to come. 

The joy of this book is its accessibility – the book has a wonderfully chatty tone and simple explanations of tricky terms or ideas. It truly is the story of Britain and it’s story-like chronological structure and language makes it hugely appealing to children, without relying on blood and guts to try and catch their interest. It makes history relevant; showing children their place in the story of Britain and making them a part of the story. The structure of the book is well thought out, allowing for reading through in bite-sized chunks or searching for a favourite topic.  We particularly love the use of speech bubbles to give real life perspectives on events, and the brilliant timeline that runs across each page. 

   

 

I cannot recommend this book enough. If you are looking for a book to inspire young minds, to kindle a passion for history and an understanding of society, or just something to pop on a shelf to help with homework, you can stop the search now. This will do the lot. Job done. 

Source- kindly sent for review by Franklin Watts/Hachette Children’s Books. 

The London Eye Mystery

18 Mar

I’ve been making the most of my local library lately – discovering books that I’ve missed and picking up ones that have been languishing on my wish list for far too long. One of the joys I’ve discovered is The London Eye Mystery by Siobhan Dowd. As a quick side note – if you haven’t come across the Siobhan Dowd Trust then do take a look, they do brilliant work getting books into the hands of kids in areas of social deprivation. 



‘Monday 24 May, 11.32a.m. Ted and Kat watch their cousin Salim get on board the London Eye. The pod rises from the ground. Monday 24 May, 12.02 p.m. The pod lands and the doors open. People exit – but where is Salim? Even the police are baffled. Ted, whose brain runs on its own unique operating system, and his older sister, Kat, overcome their prickly relationship to become sleuthing partners. They follow a trail of clues across London in a desperate bid to find their cousin, while time ticks dangerously by…’

The London Eye Mystery is that wonderful mix of strong story and character. The plot is well structured and full of drama, never talking down to the reader or letting the mystery or outcomes become too obvious or too far fetched. It is brilliantly constructed and entirely believable. But the true beauty of this book is the depiction of the characters, particularly the main character, Ted. The London Eye Mystery has the most realistic and sensitive portrayal of a child with Aspergers that I have read. His hopes and his thoughts, the way he responds to his Aspergers and to the responses of others, are all thoughtfully realised. There’s some brilliant analysis of sibling relationships here, with wonderful moments of truth. This book has helped me to understand Aspergers. It has made me think and taught me about the world and my responses to it. And that is everything I could wish for from a book.

Source: my lovely local library (although I loved this book so much that I have since bought myself a copy, with royalties going to the Siobhan Dowd Trust. Get your copy here

Beautiful Birds

11 Mar

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Designed as part alphabet book and part introduction to the world’s most beautiful birds, this book is a thing of beauty. The text is pure poetry and the artwork is delicious!

My photographs can’t do Emmanuelle Walker’s illustrations justice. The vivid orange/pink colour from the cover (think bright pink highlighter pen) is included throughout, highlighting parts of each bird. And oh the exquisite lines! And the patterns! And the contrasts! And the colours!

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The birds are introduced through Jean Roussen’s rhyming text with wonderfully creative and inspiring language. Owls have ogling orbs, macaws are ‘rainbows that ruffle’ and tanagers have polychrome quills. Beautifully evocative language for children to absorb.

Stunning illustrations, tactile pages, beautiful language, unique birds and the odd amazing fact dropped in. This is a special book that will appeal to children of all ages. Even the fully grown ones!

Source – kindly sent for review by Flying Eye Books.

The Great Big Green Book

11 Mar

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We have a responsibility to teach our children about conservation issues and to do so in a way that inspires them to make a difference. The Big Green Book is a hugely positive book that highlights where we have been going wrong but clearly points the next generation to a brighter greener future. This book says ‘we can fix this. You can fix this!’

The Big Green Book begins with our place in space and explains the balance of life on earth and our responsibility to maintain it. Looking at water, plants and trees, air and animals, and touching on climate change, everything is explained in a child-friendly and child-focused way. Climate change can be a scary concept for children but it is handled with perfect balance here – and linking it to Santa’s reindeer is genius!

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The rest of the book focuses on what we can do to protect our world. Full of practical and inspirational ideas to save water and energy and recycle and reuse, it even explains nuclear energy and food miles.

As always, Ros Asquith’s illustrations are beautifully inclusive, witty and filled with speech bubbles and captions. They add so much to this book and help make it so beautifully child-focused.

I love this book for its perfectly pitched information, just at the right level for prompting children to question the way they (and their families) live. The part that really inspired my daughter was the double page spread encouraging the reader to be the change, to think big and invent solutions. Including information about young inventors who are already making a difference has left my daughter scribbling designs and dreaming of saving the world.

Quick! Get a copy of this book in every primary and secondary school – the people who are going to save the world are waiting!

If you like the look of this, try the other two titles in the series:
The Great Big Book of Feelings and The Great Big Book of Families.

Source – kindly sent for review by Frances Lincoln Children’s Books

The Trail Game by Herve Tullet

5 Mar

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Herve Tullet is the master of interactive art books. This one is a particular favourite here. Place your finger on ‘start’ then follow the trail. Turn the pages to match the shapes and find your way through the split pages of this beautifully designed book.
 

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Part maze part art book, the split pages and crazy lines left us in a heap of tangled fingers and giggles. A lot of fun!

The Trail Game is part of the brilliantly fun and imaginative ‘game’ series. Perfect for little ones who like to explore their books, use their imaginations and create their own stories. If you like the look of this, check out The Game of Lines with its bright pink and yellow patterns that you can transform with the turn of a page:

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and The Game of Tops and Tails where you can create your own precarious balancing acts.

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Source: kindly sent for review by Phaidon Press.

How to Fly with Broken Wings

5 Mar

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This is a stunner from Jane Elson. Her debut, A Room Full of Chocolate, was well received and I think this one is even better.

Twelve-year-old Willem has Aspergers Syndrome and two main aims in life: to fly and to make at least two friends of his own age. But all the other boys from the Beckham Estate do is make him jump off things. First his desk – and now the wall. As his toes teeter on the edge, Sasha Bradley gives him a tiny little wink. Might she become his friend? Bullied by Finn and his gang the Beckham Estate Boyz, Willem has no choice but to jump. And soon, while the gangs riot on their estate, Willem and Sasha form an unlikely friendship. Because they share a secret. Sasha longs to fly too.

I love this book for its believably written and diverse crew of characters. It has depth and it has soul. Touching on loss, absent and troubled parents, Aspergers, bullying, gang culture, poverty, friendship, and the power of believing in yourself, How to Fly with Broken Wings is a beautiful book that will make you want to lift your arms and fly.

Get your copy here.

Source: kindly sent for review by Hodder Children’s Books.

World Book Day celebrations

5 Mar

So now that exciting announcement is off my chest and I’ve done a little happy dance, let’s get down to World Book Day business.

World BookDay isn’t all about dressing up as your favourite book character, or for us parents, desperately trying to cope with a last minute costume change. It is about celebrating books and fostering and encouraging reading for pleasure.

So for WBD this year I am:

Buying some books
What a hardship!!
I have ordered some books from my wishlist via Hive.co.uk. A brilliant website that supports indie bookshops and doesn’t rip off publishers and authors. My books will be delivered for free and a percentage of the money from my order will go to my nominated independent bookshop. Hurrah for hive!

Gifting some books
Mollie will get her WBD voucher today from school and she will be so excited by the idea of choosing her book. But in the meantime, this awaits her…

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And for those of you who are zooming in to try and see through the paper (I know who you are)…

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Mollie is inhaling books at the moment. She has read a Claude book a night this week and has exhausted her current supplies. I want to encourage her love for reading so here’s the next few nights sorted.

Donating to book charities
Take a #bookselfie and text Read98£2 to 70070 for Readwell, a charity gifting quality books to hospitals and getting them into the hands of ill children. Then nominate 3 mates to do it.
Here’s mine:

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Or how about watching a book den being built from the ground up? Head over to @playbythebook on twitter and watch her transform her kitchen into an enormous book den, all for BookAid. Donate here to support Zoe’s efforts and cheer her on. BookAid increases access to books to support literacy, education and development in sub-Saharan Africa, and they really do deserve your support.
Zoe’s doing a grand job so far:

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Celebrating books
For the rest of today I’m going to be racing through my review piles and my bookshelves, posting pictures on twitter and writing reviews of books that I love and that I think children will love. Have a look through… maybe you will see something just right for that World Book Day voucher?

Reading books!
Because that’s what it’s all about!
Happy World Book Day, folks! Enjoy!

WBD and An Announcement!

5 Mar

HAPPY WORLD BOOK DAY!!!

I am celebrating in lots of different ways today. But first… A little announcement I have been hugging hold of for a while….

*small drumroll*

I am going to be reviewing children’s books for Chicken Newspaper! A fantastic newspaper for young citizens.

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I am so excited about this project because there is a huge amount of passion sitting behind this newspaper. It is the creation of author and illustrator Ken Wilson-Max who I met at the A Place At The Table workshop. He is passionate about inclusion and getting quality books, stories and information into the hands of kids. Sound familiar?? He wants to get kids involved; getting the newspaper sponsored so it can get into individual schools for free, setting kids up with newspaper clubs so children learn about making their own newspapers and writing their own content. Chicken newspaper has children at the very heart. I am proud to be involved with the Chicken! mission.

It’s a great paper filled with current affairs, global learning, fascinating articles and brilliant art work. And from the next issue it will have a little Rainbow Library review section where I will highlight brilliant books that children will love to read. I’ll also be writing content for the Chicken! website with feature books and longer reviews. Woo HOOO!

So take a little look and hey… why not order a subscription to celebrate World Book Day??

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