Bad Girls – Jacqueline Wilson, Nick Sharratt — August 18, 2020

Bad Girls – Jacqueline Wilson, Nick Sharratt

Mandy is delighted when Tanya picks her as a new friend, after being bulled at school for as long as she can remember. Mandy’s mum isn’t impressed, she thinks that Tanya is a ‘bad girl’. Mandy loves spending time with her new friend and doesn’t think Tanya is a bad influence, but is she right?

I really enjoyed reading this, I’ve loved Jacqueline Wilson books since I was a child and reading it brought back many memories of reading her books. Wilson has a way of connecting with her young readers and getting into their emotions and feelings easily. Her writing has a child-like element/style to it that works perfectly for her audience and the type of books she writes.

The book covers some quite challenging topics, such as bullying, the care system and suicide. I would highly advise reading this book yourself before you share it with children and knowing the child well as some may struggle with some of the issues in the book. This will also make Mandy and Tanya relatable characters for many children, as they may have faced similar issues to the characters. It is so important that children are represented in books and see themselves.

The book was easy to read with fairly simple vocabulary used making it accessible for all readers. The plot was also easy to follow, it was quite simple and linear and didn’t jump all over the place so it was easy to follow along, which will help younger readers to engage and follow the story and understand what is happening.

*SMALL SPOILERS*

I had one issue with the book and this was the stereotype that children in care are ‘naughty’ and commit crimes. I think it paints children in care in a negative light and can be very far from the truth in some cases. If this is some children’s only encounter with children within the care system, it may influence them to develop negative stereotypes of this group and lead to issues down the line.

Children of Green Knowe – Lucy Boston — August 13, 2020

Children of Green Knowe – Lucy Boston

A haunted manor in the English countryside, home to great-grandmother Oldknow, holds many secrets. Tolly’s visit to Green Knowe is filled with adventure and mystery and stories from great-grandmother Oldknow.

I really enjoyed this book at first, I was hooked from the moment I started reading. I wanted to know more, to find out more stories and discover more about Green Knowe.

About half way through the book, I started to fall out of love with it. I found that the plot wasn’t really progressing and I didn’t feel like there was much character development either. By the end I was ready for it to end and wasn’t left wanting more or with any questions as I would with most books.

I think had there of been more of a plot and character development, this could have been a really engaging book loved by many. However, younger readers may enjoy this book, as it is simple and short and may be a good introduction to shorter novels (and classics) as it it just over 100 pages.

Clever Polly and the Stupid Wolf – Catherine Storr — August 11, 2020

Clever Polly and the Stupid Wolf – Catherine Storr

When Polly answered the door to a wolf who wanted to eat her up, she decided that she wasn’t frightened, and she would out-wit the stupid wolf.

I liked the premise of this book, typically the wolf is seen as someone to be scared of and this book makes the wolf less intimidating for young readers. Polly was a likeable character and throughout you are rooting for her to out-wit the wolf.

It was nice to read a book where a young girl was capable of outwitting a wolf and being brave enough to stand up for herself. I think readers will take away the idea that you are capable and able to stand up for yourself regardless of gender stereotypes.

I liked that each chapter was linked to a well-known fairy tale, such as the three little pigs, making the plot easy to follow and will support children’s prediction skills. It also meant that the book felt familiar, making it a fun and easy read.

I read the book after finding out that the author wrote it to help her daughter overcome her phobia. This book was entertaining and would be a good book to read aloud, but it wasn’t a particularly memorable read for me.

Exploring Pictures in Picture books – Mat Tobin — June 27, 2020

Exploring Pictures in Picture books – Mat Tobin

A couple of weeks ago Mat Tobin (@Mat_at_Brookes) did a zoom CPD exploring pictures in picture books. And I was fascinated. I never realised how much depth and meaning was in an illustration in a children’s book. I realised that the images portrayed the story, but it goes a lot deeper than that.

The location of the character. The size of the character. The frame around the image. All have an impact on how the reader perceives the story and the emotions linked to it.

I’m not going to discuss every aspect in the zoom, but I will pick out some key aspects within the discussion.

Position and size

If a character is on the left hand side of the page, it shows that the character is starting a journey. It evokes feelings of safety and comfort. If a character is on the right side of the page looking to the left or moving towards the left it shows that they are finishing their journey and returning home.

Perspective and viewpoints

If the character is looking at you, the reader, it shows that they are inviting you on the journey with them. If you can’t see their face, it is an invitation to think about their feelings. When reading picture books, often we understand how the character is feeling by looking at the illustrations and the emotions portrayed on their face. When you can’t see their far, it puts the reader on edge, as they are unable to see the emotions portrayed.

Frames

If there is a thin frame around the illustration, it invites you to observe as an outsider. It is like looking through a window, you can see what is happening, but you are not part of the action. If the image is breaking free from the frame it suggests that the character is escaping or is liberated.

Colour

Colours are well known to be linked to emotions, and this is no different in illustrations in picture books. Bright colours in an illustration suggests that the story or character is joyful, whereas dull colours suggest that there is sadness.

Illustrations in picture books are very powerful and can be analysed as much as the words can be. Even more so, when you are reading a wordless or pure picture book where the story relies on the images.

I never realised quite how powerful and impactful illustrations could be, I will never look at a picture book the same.

My Reading Journey. — June 26, 2020

My Reading Journey.

I’ve been a reader for as long as I can remember. I’ve grown up surrounded by books. My parents read regularly, themselves and to me. My family bought me many books to support my passion and learning.

My first vivid memory of reading is my dad reading the Chronicles of Narnia to me as a child before I went to bed. I treasure memories of my dad reading to me, they are some oblurred-book-book-pages-literature-46274f the most vivid memories from my childhood.

I also have memories of my class teachers reading to me. A couple of books stand out in particular. I remember being in year 3/4 and my class teacher read funnybones to the class. I remember in year 5/6 being read Northern Lights and a poem called the Dragon who ate our school. These are the three reading experiences from primary school that stand out the most. I hope that as a teacher, I too, can provide moments like these for my future pupils and help them to develop a love of reading.

As I have grown up, my reading habits have changed, but one thing has remained the same. I love reading. And I love sharing that passion with others. I don’t think I would be the person I would be today, if I didn’t grow up with books or love reading. I have read hundreds of books in my life so far, and each one has had some sort of impact on my life, whether big or small. Each one has challenged or agreed with my thinking. Each one has made me more empathetic to others situations and helped me to understand others feelings better.

My grandma also helped to ignite my passion for reading. Every weekend we would go into town and do some shopping and then go to the local library and spend time together picking out a selection of books for the week ahead. She encouraged me to join the summer reading challenge, which I completed twice as a child.

 

The Lost Thing by Shaun Tan —

The Lost Thing by Shaun Tan

Synopsis – This is a story about a child who finds a lost thing on the beach when he is looking for bottle tops to add to his collection. No-one else notices the lost thing, so he decides to find where the lost thing belongs.

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My thoughts –  Within this book, you never find out the name of the main character, who narrates the book.

This makes it seem like the reader is the person who the story belongs to and it is their story they are sharing with the listener.

The main moral/value within the story is belonging and fitting in. The idea of everyone having a place that they belong and fit in is a theme throughout the words and illustrations within the book. It is also directly referenced in the last few pages.

Another theme within the book is how curiosity changes as we grow up, that younger people are more curious about the world. As we grow up we wonder about the world less and accept the world as it is without questioning.

The illustrations within the book are very interesting. There are many pictures on each page, framed differently to highlight different aspects of the illustrations and to convey different meanings. There are few colours used in the illustrations and they are quite dull, apart from the lost thing. This helps the lost thing to stand out more and catch the readers attention, as the colour is so contrasting to the rest of the image. There is a lot of depth to the images, with a lot of activity and emotion captured within each image in the book.

I enjoyed reading this book and would recommend it to children aged 9 and above due to the levels of meaning within the story, however younger children may also enjoy reading it, particularly looking at the illustrations. It can be read at face value, or with more depth, considering the themes with criticality.

Classroom ideas – Due to the value of fitting in, this book would be useful to use within a classroom where children are struggling to form friendships and children don’t feel like they fit in. It will help them to understand that they are not alone, and they have somewhere they will fit in. This would lend itself to PSHE lessons, where these topics could be discussed sensitively.

One activity you could do with pupils is asking them to rewrite the story from the perspective of the lost thing, exploring the emotions that it feels throughout the story, using vivid language to describe what is happening and how the environment looks.

You could stop reading before the end, asking the pupils to write a different ending for the story, maybe he looks after the lost thing or perhaps he gives it to a friend.

How the grinch stole Christmas – Dr Seuss — December 4, 2018

How the grinch stole Christmas – Dr Seuss

Synopsis – The Grinch hates Christmas, and this year he has had enough. He’s decided that he’s going to out a stop to Christmas. How will the residents of whoville respond?

My thoughts – I enjoyed this book, however, it was quite different from the film, which was a little disappointing, but not completely unexpected. The language used was fairly simple, making it a great accessible Christmas read. I really like the illustrations in the book, they are so simple and the splash of red on each illustration adds emphasis to certain aspects of the illustrations. The illustrations were really engaging and helped to tell the story.

Classroom ideas – You could do a range of Christmas activities such as making cards or decorations. You could discuss what is really important and what Christmas is all about. You could look at the character of the grinch and ask the children why he might hate Christmas – you could talk about loneliness.

The Truth Pixie – Matt Haig — November 20, 2018

The Truth Pixie – Matt Haig

Goodreads synopsis – From number one bestselling author Matt Haig comes a hilarious and heartwarming story, brilliantly illustrated throughout by Chris Mould Wherever she is, whatever the day, She only has one kind of thing to say. Just as cats go miaow and cows go moo, The Truth Pixie can only say things that are true.

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My thoughts – I loved this book. This short book touches on mental illness in an easy to read way, making it accessible for young children. This book will help readers feel like they are not alone, and may help them better understand what they are going through.

I loved the illustrations in it by Chris Mould, they worked perfectly with the story. And I liked that they are black and white illustrations rather than colour, as it represents the feelings shown within the book well, as some people with mental health link it to darkness and not seeing colour.

The book rhymed which gave it a good rhythm when reading, which many children enjoy when hearing books read aloud to them. I also like the simplicity of language used, as the concepts are challenging enough without the added language barrier.

Classroom ideas – I think this would be a good book to read and let children digest independently. Although it’s child-friendly, it discusses some challenging topics, and I don’t think it would be suitable to complete work based on it. You could maybe do mental health related activities and discuss the themes within the book, but I wouldn’t feel comfortable doing comprehension from it.

Nevermoor- Jessica Townsend — November 15, 2018

Nevermoor- Jessica Townsend

Goodreads Synopsis – A cursed girl escapes death and finds herself in a magical world – but is then tested beyond her wildest imagination
Morrigan Crow is cursed. Having been born on Eventide, the unluckiest day for any child to be born, she’s blamed for all local misfortunes, from hailstorms to heart attacks–and, worst of all, the curse means that Morrigan is doomed to die at midnight on her eleventh birthday.
But as Morrigan awaits her fate, a strange and remarkable man named Jupiter North appears. Chased by black-smoke hounds and shadowy hunters on horseback, he whisks her away into the safety of a secret, magical city called Nevermoor.
It’s then that Morrigan discovers Jupiter has chosen her to contend for a place in the city’s most prestigious organization: the Wundrous Society. In order to join, she must compete in four difficult and dangerous trials against hundreds of other children, each boasting an extraordinary talent that sets them apart – an extraordinary talent that Morrigan insists she does not have. To stay in the safety of Nevermoor for good, Morrigan will need to find a way to pass the tests – or she’ll have to leave the city to confront her deadly fate

My thoughts – Although this book took a while to read, I really enjoyed it. It was hard to find time to read it with university and life being so hectic but when I got the chance to read it I loved it. I had no idea that what happened at the end would happen, and I really liked that. It was such a shock when it happened. It’s got such an interesting plot, and I would love to read the sequel at some point to see what happens next.

Classroom ideas – I think it’s a really good book to read for pleasure with your class. One classroom idea would be to look into the characters in the book and delve deeper into what they are thinking and feeling at key parts of the story. You could also draw the illustrations to accompany parts of the story. There are so many interesting events that happen in the book that you could look at. You could do diary writing, or newspaper articles about the events that happen.

That’s not my hat – John Klassen — November 6, 2018

That’s not my hat – John Klassen

Amazon synopsis – From the creator of the bestselling I Want My Hat Back and Sam and Dave Dig a Hole comes the story of a tiny fish who proudly wears a blue hat. It fits him perfectly. Problem is, trouble could be following close behind… So it’s a good thing that the enormous fish he took it from won’t wake up. And even if he does, it’s not as though he’ll ever know what happened, right? With so many emotions conveyed in just the glint of an eye, visual humour swims to the fore in this thrillingly original, perfectly-paced cautionary tale.

My thoughts- I enjoyed this book. There was very few words, which meant that the illustrations did most of the ‘talking’. The book was quite short meaning it is accessible for a larger group of children. The language used is quite basic which means that it is accessible for a large group of pupils.

Classroom ideas – you could look at ethics, the book mentions stealing which you could have a debate about and consider if it is ever morally right to steal. You could also do drama from the different characters point of view. You never find out how the big fish got his hat back, so the children could write a couple of pages for the book to show what happened.