The Big, Fat, Totally Bonkers Diary of Pig

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By Emer Stamp

“Hello.

Me I is Pig. I is big and pink (sometimes a bit brown if I has been rolling in mud). My best friend Duck says I has stopped growing; that I has reached my maximum size. But I don’t think this is true. I is sure when I eats a lot I gets a bit bigger and when I don’t eat so much. I gets a little bit smaller.”

Pig is Back!

Pig is back and he’s on hilarious form in this, his fourth diary in the bestselling series by Emer Stamp. Action and adventure await young readers as Pig finds himself faced once again with those most dastardly of book villains, the Evil Chickens. Stitched up by the atrocious avians and forced to leave the farm, Pig’s life takes a Big, Fat, Totally Bonkers turn that kids will thoroughly enjoy. Old friends and new join in with the fun, farts and frolics as Pig faces danger (and chickens) in order to save the day.

A Poster from Pig’s Website!

A Book With Style

With cracking characters, surprising plot turns and fab illustrations, The Big, Fat, Totally Bonkers Diary of Pig is certainly a book with style. Open it up and you’ll see something different with each turn of the page. Fonts are easy to access and change for each character, which makes for exciting reading. Emer Stamp understands what kids want from a funny book and delivers it impeccably; every teacher looking to inspire reading for pleasure should have a set of her books in their classroom. Also, do check out Emer Stamp’s Pig website- it is ABSOLUTELY BRILLIANT: there are so many great resources and things to explore. Here it is.

Children across the middle grade age range will love Pig not only for his adventures, but also for his impressive variety of farts which are described in gratifyingly specific detail. I just hope somewhere out there there’s a primary school teacher who’s prepared to take the leap and make this a class reader alongside the science topic ‘The Digestive System’. That would be just too wonderful.

GIVEAWAY!

The Big, Fat, Totally Bonkers Diary of Pig is an absolute corker of a book and you can win not just this little beauty but the whole series by following the blog tour on Twitter and retweeting my review. Good luck!

Thanks very much to Scholastic UK for sending me this copy of The Big, Fat, Totally Bonkers Diary of Pig and for asking me to be part of the blog tour.


Gaslight by Eloise Williams

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It isn’t every book that wins the whippet seal of approval, you know.

” My mother disappeared on the sixth of September, 1894.

I was found at the docks in Cardiff, lying like a gutted fish at the water’s edge.”

And so starts an intriguing prologue that leads us into Nansi Howell’s life.

Nansi

In chapter one, we find Nansi five years older and in the dubious “care” of Sid who runs a theatre along with other less salubrious ventures. Under Sid’s control, she has learned to take on other identities as both an actor and a thief. Still, Nansi is determined to hold on to her hopes and dreams doing what she can to uncover any clues as to where her mother might be.

Then the arrival of two new theatre acts have an impact on Nansi’s life that means things will never be the same again. Readers aged nine years plus will thrill at being plunged into Eloise Williams’ tale of Victorian Cardiff. Nansi is a character to take to the heart and one who children will find a great empathy for. Gaslight is full of surprises and as good an adventure as you could possibly want and as I’ve come to expect from Firefly Press who consistently publish amazing children’s literature. And look at that cover! Isn’t it just beautiful?

Gaslight

I’ve been looking forward to reading Gaslight for a long time and now I’ve finished it the one thing that strikes me as amazing is the amount of heart and drama Eloise Williams has created in less than 200 pages.  There’s huge depth of story and as I read, I felt like Gaslight functioned as an ink and paper time machine, with surroundings as real as you would wish for. This is exactly what makes me want to share it in class: to see the response from children to not only a cracking adventure plot, but also to the wider picture of Nansi’s life. I fully anticipate mass gasping and holding of breath and hands raised with questions that just can’t wait. I’m pretty convinced Gaslight is one of those books that keeps kids glued even after the home-time bell has rung. I’m looking forward to finding out!

Gaslight: a vivid and breath-taking piece of story-telling brilliance.


Who Let the Gods Out by Maz Evans

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Book seen here with terrifying Easter Bunny

“It began on a Friday, as strange things often do.”

Who Let the Gods Out

Elliot’s worries are very much grounded in the real world. His mum isn’t well and whilst Elliot is trying to hold everything together, the money problems keep coming. If he doesn’t find £20,000 in exactly one week they will be turfed out of their farm for good with nowhere to go.

But sometimes life surprises you with a bolt from the blue.

(Or a constellation.)

Possibly the last thing Elliot was expecting to land in their cowshed was Virgo: a young immortal from Elysium, on Earth to deliver ambrosia to a prisoner kept by the Gods near his home. Specifically, under Stonehenge. Thrown together by fate, they join forces but when the delivery goes wrong and the pair accidentally release Thanatos, diabolical Daemon of Death, things get a bit dicey. With the whole of the human race under threat, it’s time to get the big guns involved. Enter Zeus and a cast of Gods like you’ve never seen them before.

MG Roller Coaster

Who Let the Gods is a substantial MG roller coaster of an adventure.  It’s a big story- over 350 pages- and is packed full of action and humour. It’s properly roll around on the floor can’t get your breath funny. The characters are varied and hilarious. For example:

Charon the ferryman crossing passengers over the river Styx is genius, a kind of London cabbie:

“Right-o, we’ll take the Severn- the Wye’s murder this time of day.”

And Zeus, retired for the past 2000 years. An ageing Lothario, schmoozing mortal women and having a blast:

“…he was rather surprised to find Zeus in a badly fitting light-blue tuxedo with a frilly shirt, holding a cheese and ham vol-au-vent. The long white hair was there, albeit badly slicked back with hair gel. And it wasn’t a strapping chest bursting out so much as a gigantic belly.”

Then there’s Sisyphus, who I’m pleased to report has a lisp. Thithyphuth.

I’ll leave you to discover the episode with Her Maj the Queen; sufficed to say it’s rather surprising!

Reader Response

Whether it’s a main character or a brief encounter, the attention given to reader response is second to none. This is why I’d love to teach it and see those reactions first hand. If I were sharing this with a class, I’d have a whale of a time. I’d be going all out with drama, role play, anything to get the children up and enjoying the pure joy Who Let the Gods Out gives. Fun and learning, together at last!

Who Let the Gods Out is the first part of a series and I’m very much looking forward to the next book, out in the summer.

 

 

 

 

 


Dear Dinosaur by Chae Strathie & Nicola O’Byrne

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dear-dinosaur-done

Dear Dinosaur

Dear Dinosaur, written by Chae Strathie and illustrated by Nicola O’Byrne, is an adorable new picture book for 2017 from Scholastic.

When Max visits a big museum a long way from home, he is really taken by the dinosaurs- especially the Tyrannosaurus Rex. He has so many question but the museum’s about to shut so Dinosaur Dora who works there suggests he writes to the T.Rex instead. So begins a sweet and funny story, full of fun facts and accompanied with attached real letters, cards and postcards for children to open along the way! It’s a beautiful book with artwork and story complimenting each other really well. Dear Dinosaur is a genuine all round crowd pleaser, therefore I’d strongly recommend it as a shared text in schools for younger children as well as a great addition to your child’s home library.

What’s Not to Like?

The interactive element of opening the various attachments is a brilliant way of engaging young children in books: it’s varied, it’s lots of fun and exactly the sort of introduction to the world of reading you’d want for the kids in your life. For extra classroom value, follow this link to a very useful teaching resource. Scholastic Story Stars have created pages and pages of brilliant resources to go with the book. I’m a teacher and know how much this will be appreciated by colleagues everywhere. A fab new book with classroom ready activities spanning the whole curriculum- what’s not to like?

Fiercely Fantastic

Why do I like it so much? When I was very young, my favourite picture books were just like Dear Dinosaur: full of surprising extra details that made me happy and want to re-read them again and again. When you’re a child, books like this feel like they were written especially for you. It was lovely to have this feeling again and I really didn’t want the story to end.

Dear Dinosaur is a fantastic introduction to the joy of reading for kids and a big dollop of gorgeousness for the adults that share it. Bound to be a roaring success!


Stone Underpants by Rebecca Lisle

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Illustrations by Richard Watson

stone-undies-done

“It was cold in the Stone Age

When the icy wind blew it was freezing.

‘Brrrr! My bottom!’

‘I really do need something to keep my bottom warm,’ Pod told his Dad.

‘You could make something,’ Dad said.

‘Stone is very handy.'”

Stone Underpants

Spare a thought for poor Pod at this time of year. As the weather gets colder, we can avoid a chilly bottom by cranking up the heating, pulling on an extra layer, or hunkering down with a hot chocolate for company. Pod has no such luxuries. He lives in the Stone Age. Instead, he has to experiment with different materials in order to find a suitably bottom-warming pair of pants. We join him as he tries different pairs, all with comical consequences.

Cheeky!

This cheeky book (pun fully intended) will be enjoyed by children aged three years plus who will adore both Pod and the many references to his bottom. Young readers are transported to a different world and given a good giggle whilst they’re there.

I found Stone Underpants funny and charming. This is a story that’s obviously written and drawn with love and children will get that. Richard Watson’s illustrations are superb. As with all good picture books, the art adds opportunities for discussion and gives readers the power to add their own thoughts to the story.

Rocking it for New Readers

Picture books are so important: they are our first and most crucial opportunity to encourage reading for pleasure. They need to be fun, surprising and ideally a bit bonkers too. Stone Underpants has all of these covered.

You’ll love the way it lends itself to reading aloud and how Rebecca Lisle has used a structure that will encourage children to remember elements of the story and even join in. Needless to say, this is perfect for reading time and time again. There’s a lot of fun to be had here in the sharing of Stone Underpants for grown-ups and children, whether it be at home or at school.

Stone Underpants, to put it in simple terms, rocks.

 

Thanks so much to Maverick for sending me this lovely book!


Beetle Boy by M.G. Leonard

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“Dr Bartholomew Cuttle wasn’t the kind of man who mysteriously disappeared. He was the kind of man who read enormous books at the dinner table and got fried egg stuck in his beard. He was the kind of man who always lost his keys, and never took an umbrella on rainy days. He was the kind of dad who might be five minutes late picking you up from school, but he always came. More than anything else, Darkus knew his dad was not the kind of father who would abandon his thirteen year old son. “

beetle boy done

Face First into Adventure

Beetle Boy by M.G. Leonard is a stonkingly good debut, best recommended to readers of 9 years* plus. The extract above is the first paragraph of Beetle Boy, and what a start! Clearly M. G. Leonard isn’t messing around with this, shoving us face first head long into adventure with the chance of peril. Marvellous!

For the next three hundred or so pages/ few hours, I was thoroughly involved in finding out where indeed Darkus’ scientist dad had vanished to and what on earth it had to do with Baxter and the other beetles. Baxter, you see, is a large and friendly rhinocerous beetle who appears shortly after Darkus goes to live with his Uncle Max and seems to adopt the boy as his own. Apparently super intelligent, Baxter communicates easily with Darkus and it isn’t long before together they’re working to solve the mystery of the missing dad. With the support of Virginia and Bertoldt (who are the sort of friends everyone should have: fiercely loyal and more than a bit quirky) the investigations begin.

Beetlemania

I’m recommending Beetle Boy as something refreshingly different for young readers. I really enjoyed the scientific thinking at the heart of this book; it’s so great to have a really cracking MG book to recommend to kids who are into science, particularly one that’s also very funny and action-packed too. I’m sure teachers and librarians are going to embrace it for the same reasons. I loved that this book had me in bits with worry every time a beetle was in danger and that I was constantly checking the Entomologist’s Dictionary at the back for definitions. (Notes on phonetic pronunciations of terms listed would have been even better though, as a bit of a helping hand for those reading aloud.) Also, I must briefly mention Lucretia Cutter, a character of dubious intent, both intriguing and repelling in equal measure who you need to meet soon.

Beetle Boy is sure to go down a storm with kids- just don’t expect to communicate much with them for a few days, it is over 300 pages long after all! A sequel is also in the pipeline, which will make lots of children (and adults too) very happy indeed.

Beetle Boy by M.G Leonard is a riveting read for keen bookworms. Expect Beetlemania to ensue forthwith.

* I can see from M.G. Leonard’s website that children as young as six have enjoyed Beetle Boy- that’s pretty impressive reading! Bright sparks who are younger than my 9 years recommended age should definitely give it a go!


Megalopolis and the Visitor from Outer Space by Cléa Dieudonné

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mega 1

“Megalopolis is a magnificent city. People come from far and wide to see its sights. One day, there was even a visitor from another galaxy.”

Megalopolis and the Visitor from Outer Space by Cléa Dieudonné is a very special picture book telling a vertical story. Suitable for readers ages 5+

A Tall Tale

Living in a city that feels welcoming is a wonderful thing that spells the difference between location and home.

When our hero, the little green visitor from outer space, arrives in his Jetsonesque spaceship, he is warmly welcomed by everyone he meets. There are many who wish to meet him, all throughout the city! As the story unfolds (or as we unfold the story), we follow his progress down through Megalopolis for he appears on each page. He attends a spectacular firework display in a dormant volcano, plays hide and seek in the Chinese Gardens and is introduced to the animals in the zoo. There are weddings, near death experiences and many types of brightly coloured cake.

Look Again!

The story text is rich in detail, sweet and funny and captivating. Cléa Dieudonné changes the colour of her text with each page: a neat move that links the words simply but effectively to the pictures. Oh, and the pictures! An artwork unfolds showing the whole of Megalopolis, from the skies above to the depths below and all in between. Colour and detail are the thing here. Balanced use of the full spectrum of colours means that no aspect overshadows another. Whilst searching for our intergalactic hero, we happily take in the rest of the Megalopolis.

There are many things to spot. I loved the animals, especially the dogs- including one very fine pink poodle. As in every big city though, there is evidence of crime. Kids will love finding the cheeky burglars up to no good! No building is the same and there is movement and noise everywhere. You can even see a mermaid…

I took a few photos so you could see how that works:

Gorgeous isn’t it? And honestly, so much better than this in real life where you can really appreciate all the finer detail, the feel of the book and sound of the pages unfolding.

Unique

If you’re looking for something totally different with a wide breadth of appeal, you really need to check out Megalopolis. This is a vertical story, beautifully illustrated on fantastic quality thick, resilient paper, that folds out to three metres long. It’ll need to be tough, for this is a book that will be pulled out and enjoyed time and time again. Kids will treasure it. Megalopolis is a great leveller that will be loved by both reluctant readers and established book lovers alike, simply because it’s an entertaining and accessible read.

 A vertical story of ultimate glory with something new for you each time you read it.

Notes for Teachers

Hurrah! At last a book that we can all get excited about together! That’s right, even those kids in your class that are struggling to find the right book; that one book that will make them think a little differently, stop reading being a chore and turn it into an adventure. Bold claim, but I absolutely think this book could be just the thing to create a buzz in young readers. Why? Well, read on.

The Class of 2011 and Talk for Writing

A few years ago I taught in a school that streamed by ability for Numeracy and Literacy. In taking the ‘lower’ literacy group, it was no surprise to find even by Year Five, most of them were conditioned to be down on their own abilities and sadly aware that they were labelled as the bottom half of the year in reading and writing. A lovely group of kids with loads to offer, let down by ‘rigorous’ assessment and left to feel like square pegs.

Then one day, I went on a Pie Corbett course which showed me how to help them by working a bit differently. By using Talk for Writing, we learnt stories together and used ALOT of flip chart paper to break down those stories into simple pictures, codes and symbols. For an ex-art teacher like me, it made utter sense. The children came up with actions to go with the symbols and we acted it out and of course they loved it. Plus, for maybe the first time ever, they knew a story inside out.

They were equipped to start planning the next stage of their writing on their own. Out came the rolls of lining paper. They mapped our group work onto it, working in pairs along corridors to construct stories that were many metres long. They changed aspects, made them individual. In short, they owned it. It wasn’t unlike Megalopolis in structure, and it lit up their eyes to work this way. They loved to read it back, walking along their stories as they did so, jumping over it, kneeling next to it but most of all, treasuring it and keeping it safe from nearby careless feet!

For three weeks they worked more or less independently in the name of fiction. I can’t tell you how much they enjoyed it and when they wrote up their stories as more traditional ‘books’ with covers and a blurb at the back, their writing had improved beyond belief. Really, all this good stuff was there in them in the first place, they just needed the time to engage and to look at things in a new way to find out what they were capable of. Best use of half a term’s Literacy lessons ever. Do try it if you can.

The Power of Books

Megalopolis reminded me of that class. They would’ve absolutely loved it. We would’ve left our places, spread it out across tables through the centre of the room and read it together, walking along it, spotting things, taking notes and talking about it. I know they would have seen there were more stories to tell amongst the other characters in the book. They would have run with that, created new tales.

They would’ve said to me “Next time we do Talk for Writing, can we make a book that looks like that?” I could really get kids writing with a starting point like this, let alone reading! The reading part would be easy! Coloured fonts? Stories three metres long? Integrating art and writing? Yes please! Now that would be something worth showing off to mums and dads at parents evening. Rather more exciting than thrice collected evidence of adjectival phrases and far, far more likely to encourage reading and (dare I say) writing for pleasure.

I truly think Megalopolis could add value to learning across the primary age range. From creating happy readers in key stage one, to using it the heart of the curriculum higher up. Teachers are amazing at making links that matter and Megalopolis is full of possibilities. For example, the parallels here between the alien being welcomed into a new world and our oldest pupils thinking about new beginnings at secondary school is just one aspect. There are many more to explore. Wouldn’t it be fantastic to use a picture book to kick off your topic work in Year Six? Why not do it? It would certainly give the kids and the adults something to think about.

(Megalopolis and the Visitor from Outer Space was kindly sent to me by Thames and Hudson)

 

 

 

 

 

 


In Darkling Wood by Emma Carroll: Rooting for Alice

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“…I fight the urge to run. I’m not a chicken. It’s only a load of old trees. Making myself breathe normally, I walk back towards the gate. I’m nearly there, nearly calm again, when to my left I see something white flicker between the trees. Quick as it appears, it’s gone.

There’s someone else in this wood.”

darkling wood (2)

In Darkling Wood

A story of magic in a very real world, Emma Carroll’s In Darkling Wood can make anything feel possible. Suitable for readers of nine years plus.

When her mum gets a call in the middle of the night with news of a heart donor for her little brother, Alice is as prepared as she can be. She’s worried for Theo of course, but clear on how lucky they all are to have had a compatible heart become available. Alice can be forgiven for thinking this will be the sum total of her upheaval for the next few weeks, as that would after all be quite enough to cope with. What she finds out though, on arriving at the hospital, is that she won’t be staying with her best friend as she previously assumed, but with her paternal grandmother: a woman she wouldn’t recognise if she passed her in the street.

Root Cause

This is what brings Alice to Darkling Wood. Darkling Wood- what a great name. Already exciting. Don’t you just love books that uproot the protagonist and place them in new settings, new situations? Children’s writers are particularly brilliant at this: think of CS Lewis and the Pevensie children, Frances Hodgson Burnett’s removal of Mary Lennox to Yorkshire, and of course Alice discovering Wonderland. Now we have Emma Carroll’s Alice in Darkling Wood, a new addition to this theme, and one that fits very well into our modern world.

The reason behind Alice’s relocation is solid, grounding, real-life stuff that draws us to her side and has us hoping for a good outcome. Instead, she finds she has even more to contend with. Firstly, she is stranded with her Grandmother Nell, away from the modern comforts of mobile signal and internet access- to all intents and purposes, already in the past. Secondly, it turns out that Granny is about as popular with her neighbours as Brian Blessed in a library, having decided to cut down the ancient woodland surrounding her house. The locals consider Darkling Wood to be not only beautiful but magical and mysterious too, something Alice can already feel for herself. Nell however, sees only the encroaching trees and imminent risk of damage to her property. This makes Alice by association unpopular at the school she has had to join whilst she stays in the area, which isolates her in ways she’s never experienced before.

Thank goodness for Flo then, a girl around her own age who she meets in the woods and appears to be from the local traveller camp. She might be a little bit eccentric, with her red coat and talk of fairies, but at least she’s on Alice’s side. This is just the beginning of Alice’s adventures, and ours too as we are given insights into not only Alice’s world, but also another one that began nearly one hundred years ago…

Family Tree

Emma Carroll is a wonderful storyteller and with In Darkling Wood she has taken quite a gollop of different aspects- the past and the present, the real world and a magical alternative- and blended them seamlessly into Alice’s story. There’s also a sensitively handled take on modern family life, with not only illness included but also estrangement and disunity. Less skilled writers could find this much information hard to handle in a three hundred page book, but in Emma Carroll’s hands it feels real, which of course is all good and proper, as life doesn’t hand you experiences sequentially, rather preferring the layering option. As a reader, it feels very natural and easy. It’s only in recalling the plot for this review that I fully realised how cleverly written it is. As for the magic, we can only hope for a little of that in our own lives and until then, escaping into books like In Darkling Wood is the closest possible thing.

In Darkling Wood shows us that magic can be closer than you think.

Themes for Teachers

As ever, Emma Carroll gives fresh insights in history, this time focussing on The First World War from the perspective of the family left at home. Other themes teachers might want to explore through the text are Alice’s transitions, to another school and also staying with an unknown relative. In Darkling Wood also considers environmental issues and how people respond to them and is an excellent book for sparking conversation on different points of view and empathy. Classes could have lots of fun developing their own family trees as they consider Alice’s, as there is opportunity to explore the metaphor of the threatened woodland and Alice’s own precarious family situation. I’d recommend this as particularly lending itself to Year Six pupils because of the aspect of transition but also as a way of bringing a little magic to their last year in primary, which is the least we can do.

 


How to Look for a Lost Dog by Ann M Martin

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How to Look for a Lost Dog by Ann M Martin

“I am Rose Howard and my first name has a homonym. To be accurate, it has a homophone, which is a word that’s pronounced the same as another word but spelled differently. My homophone name is Rows.”

lost dog

Rabbits

Firstly, apologies for the rabbit dominated photograph. The rabbit, a rather lovely Christmas present, is in fact providing a valid purpose. In the space of two days I managed to reduce How to Look for a Lost Dog, a brand new paperback into a curling sorry mess, unable to stand sensibly without rabbit supervision. This is largely because for the last two days I have binge read without care or consideration, being more involved in the story than in state of the book. There was also a near bath related incident that could’ve made things much, much worse though, so there’s a silver lining. Note to self: in future take photos of books before reading.

Rose

How to Look for a Lost Dog has recently been released on January 1st and sets a high bar for the year. Ideal for children aged nine years plus and also appropriate for Key Stage Three, this is all about Rose.

Rose is a high functioning autistic eleven year old girl telling her own story. Rose tells us a lot about her fascination with homonyms. She also likes prime numbers and following rules. It’s important that everyone follows the rules and when they don’t, Rose gets upset and her aide (the book’s set in America, so this is her TA) has to ask her to step into the hall to calm down.

Rain

It seems that everyone finds it hard to see past Rose’s diagnosis: her classmates, her teacher, her father too. Ann M Martin has written this so that at first, we too might feel a little overwhelmed by Rose’s personality. On the other hand it’s easy to number those that do totally understand and accept Rose: her lovely Uncle Weldon and her dog Rain (reign, rein).

Rose’s dad found Rain behind his local pub one rainy night, collarless and drenched, so brought her home as a gift for Rose. They bonded immediately and like Rose, Rain also knows when to stay out of Dad’s way. He isn’t a bad person, but he certainly isn’t happy or in a particularly good way. He doesn’t cope well with Rose and spends a lot of time in the pub, leaving her to do most of the housework. We understand that Rose’s mum walked out when she was two, so it’s fair to say Rose has to cope with quite a lot.

It’s watching how well-adjusted Rose is despite her daily life that makes this one of those stories that slightly takes over your life for the duration of reading. Add to that the knowledge that sooner or later we know Rain is going to go missing, and it becomes almost un-put-downable. This way, Rose’s diagnosis soon diminishes for the reader, and in turn her classmates and teacher also start to see her properly. This is initially because they meet Rain one day in school and as everyone knows there is nothing better to bring people together than a friendly dog. Once we all step over the diagnosis, it’s easy to keep doing so.

Recommended (Highly)

This isn’t a story about an autistic girl losing her dog; oh no, there’s far more to it than that. The disappearance of Rain is just one part of the book, one part of Rose’s life, albeit an important one. Just like any eleven year old, she is learning, growing and figuring out the world. Her journey will leave you humbled and wet of eye.

Apart from this being a wonderful story, it’s also good to read about a girl with Asperger’s Syndrome for a change. Autism is more commonly associated with boys as more are diagnosed with it. Siobhan O’Dowd’s London Eye Mystery is my stand out favourite book with an autistic boy at its centre, but it’s brilliant to be able to recommend a book that will change the way people see autistic girls too. With the creation of Rose, Martin has added much to diversity in children’s literature and I hope this will be embraced by schools and libraries everywhere. With other genres such as fast-paced action adventure, funny books and horror for kiddies being the forerunners in the popularity stakes this year, I really hope this gem of a story finds its rightful place in shopping baskets.

How to Look for a Lost Dog is book to be loved and shared.

GGGG Gorgeous but there may be big, fat, blobby tears- embrace the emotion.


Reading for Pleasure: 11 Point Plan to Get Kids Reading!

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My 11 Point Plan To Get Kids Reading for Pleasure Has Landed…

Reading for pleasure is everything. Let’s spread the word and share the joy!

1. Remove Boundaries

First stop, talk to the kids- what kind of reading do they enjoy? Find out, listen, use or adapt this questionnaire from the National Literacy Trust and give it to your class. What does it tell you? Every class is different of course. Encourage all kinds of reading- comics, instruction manuals, whatever floats your boat. Keep a suggestions box in plain site so the children can recommend new book purchases; even better, take the children to the book shop to choose their new school books. Don’t make reading for pleasure a chore. Instead, observe the wisdom of Daniel Pennac, who wrote The Rights of The Reader and follow the instructions of his brilliant poster, illustrated by Quentin Blake. Quite the simplest and most effective explanation of creating happy readers that I’ve seen. Here’s a little version:

daniel pennac

2. Adults Get Reading

Get some reading for pleasure recommendations. There are plenty on my site, and I’d also recommend the excellent www.lovereading4kids.co.uk. Invest in the right class readers for your current cohort. Make it your business to read like billy-o. Teachers and parents need to read for pleasure too and children’s books are a source of constant delight for everyone. Find out what books parents liked when they were at school and use the information to create a lovely big display. Offer parents a space in school to develop their own book group. Provide a good example.

3. Flaunt It

Look to the reading for pleasure Experts. Go to your local library book shop and see how they present and display their books. How are they promoting them to create sales? What makes you want to borrow or buy? Look out for prominent displays, short punchy recommendations and think about how this could work in your school. Reading spaces matter. Does your book corner look exciting, welcoming and well-cared for? Does it have to be constrained to just a corner? Display all sorts of books: shiny new fiction ones, picture books, ones bursting with facts and figures, giant old mysterious books that look like they’ve been plucked from the Hogwarts restricted section. Books are beautiful for many reasons, so keep your eyes open for inspiration everywhere.

4. Tell Stories

Read to your class every day and complete at least one book a term. Run story telling clubs at lunchtime or after school. Tell parents about www.readaloud.org, a non-profit organisation that is ‘working to make reading aloud for fifteen minutes every day  a new standard in childcare’. Here’s their poster:

read aloud

Share stories with your colleagues. Make time in staff meetings to regularly share reading for pleasure gems: books, book news, sites of interest, events, competitions and soon you’ll have a whole school bank of knowledge to feed into your classrooms.

5. Make it Competitive

How many insects did James join in the giant peach? What district did Rue come from?  What gives Mr Strong his strength? Everyone loves a quiz. Get some teams together, including teachers and parents and have some fun. And make sure there are amazing bookish prizes too, of course- as well as chocolate. Remember, there must always be chocolate.

6. Promote Poetry

Entertaining, thought-provoking and creative, you should be making poetry a part of every day. Poetry is awesome. Every child can find pleasure in finishing a poem. Michael Rosen is the ultimate poet of glory. I won’t even consider visiting a school without taking my memory stick loaded with Rosen performing his poems. Pure joy. He is the absolute expert here. I recommend you check out his video tips on creating a poetry friendly classroom.

7. Inspire

Choice and motivation. Take care to recommend the right books to read for pleasure, especially for children who have just come off a prescriptive reading scheme, or those who don’t know which books to choose. Create a classroom reading box with a variety of easily accessible books that you have already read as a supportive way to encourage confidence when choosing a book. Make sure every child has a reading buddy in another year and ensure they spend time with them weekly. Cool your boots and  give children time to choose books. Tell your class about Faith, whose mum tweets  her reading habits as @272Book Faith. Faith reads a book a day and has more than 2500 twitter followers. Something of an inspiration, she donated all her finished books to her old primary school when she left too.

8. Bring Me the Funny!

Last week Scholastic revealed their new book award: The Lollies, or The Laugh Out Loud Awards to celebrate the best in funny books for children. Clever move. Funny books are unbelievably powerful: they blow a giant raspberry at the misconception that reading is silent and serious, and aim a well-placed kick up the backside of boring comprehension activities. Check out my list of funny books, or pop into your local bookshop and go for the one with the silliest cover.

9. Celebrate & Saturate

Make the most of book fairs and go to town on book weeks. Really go to town! Get authors and illustrators in, create your own sculpture trail based on favourite books, adapt a book into a film or a drama and invite people to watch, do something with your local library, ask the kids what they want to do! Celebrate reading success and books with parents- make it a part of every week. Saturate your curriculum. Source relevant books, not just for your english lessons but also for science, art, PE, everything. Get them up in the classroom, show them off, change them often. Invest in guided reading. Reading needs to be more than a bolt on, you get out what you put in. One after-school book club is nice, but for the best results you need to create a culture of reading throughout the school.

10. Be Generous

Allow the children to take the books home. All the books. If you haven’t got a library or a librarian, create your own lending system or make a note of loans but the key is to make it easy for the kids to borrow the books. What’s the worst that could happen? The books aren’t returned, right? Look at it this way: if the kids are stealing the books, you must be doing something right.

11. Keep Up To Date!

There has never been a more exciting time to read children’s books! The quality and quantity of amazing authors releasing new material is out of this world. http://booksforkeeps.co.uk/ have been independently writing about children’s books since 1980 and you should add them to your favourites. Also, twitter is a brilliant place to get the latest news and connect with authors. Plus, I’m spending as much time as possible doing this for you, so keep checking out www.booksagogo.co.uk too!