Just drawing your attention to a few exceptional picture books which have been kindly sent over the past couple of weeks. I am forever thankful for great books which spark discussion, imagination and joy in young readers, and the selection today will provoke different responses and offer plenty of opportunity for book chat!
Coming to England by Floella Benjamin,
Illustrated by Diane Ewen, Published by Macmillan
A beautifully illustrated and true story of the arrival of Dame Floella Benjamin and her family to the shores of England from their native Trinidad in 1960. In her memoir of the same title, Floella Benjamin describes her native island, the unsupervised and fun journey and the cold, grey London she arrived into. This picture book, though telling the same story, focuses on the courage of her family, the adventure of the journey and being reunited with her parents. Her dreams of meeting the Queen and finding new friends stayed with her throughout her childhood and took longer to come true but young Floella was taught to work hard and be patient. This gorgeous book will spark plenty of discussions about moving to new places, expectations and dreams and the treatment of those from other cultures. Perfect as a story to share or as a leaping point into studying the Windrush generation, I highly recommend it! Afraid of the Dark by Sarah Shaffi and Isabel Otter,
Illustrated by Lucy Farfort, Published by Little Tiger
An endearing and lovingly illustrated tale of moving house and settling in. Amy and Dad move to a new house but Amy has trouble settling in at night. The house doesn’t feel like home and there are strange shadows on the walls. Amy and her Dad fill the days with books, toys and making new friends but when the dark comes, it feels scary. Many children have a fear of the dark at some point in their lives and the upheaval of a move can increase this fear. Luckily, parents like the Dad in the story know just what to do- share a story, have extra cuddles and hang stars from the ceiling. A delightful tale to assure children they are safe in the dark and that they can overcome their fears. I can see plenty of stars being made after reading this wonderful story, and hung from ceilings around the world. Fox by Isabel Thomas,
Illustrated by Daniel Egnéus, Published by Bloomsbury
We sometimes shy away from the topic of death with our children for fear of scaring or worrying them, but this book, visually stunning, shows that death can be beautiful and necessary in nature. Fox is teaching her cubs to survive, to hunt and to fend for themselves, not knowing they will need these skills soon. When fox does, her cubs learn quickly to survive and her body becomes food for other creatures and for the soil, “as every particle that once was fox finds a new place in the world…”. Scientifically this book will allow children to understand that death is not the end but part of the process of nature. The vast circle of life can be explored in greater depth with this book. The illustrations are breathtaking and wondrous, sure to keep children poring over each page. Thank You by Joseph Coelho,
Illustrated by Sam Usher, Published by Frances Lincoln Children’s Books
A charming book expressing the importance of thank you’s, togetherness and community spirit. When we went into lockdown, I think many of us suffered the worry of the unknown and when the NHS Clap for Carers was started every Thursday, I had tears streaming down my cheeks for I no longer felt isolated and alone. This has been an extraordinary year, not in the joy but the worry, fear and uncertainty of a global pandemic and this book brings it down to basics. The necessary thank you’s for those working hard to help, ensure we are safe, getting food on shelves and medicine where it needs to be, not to mention the bin men, teachers, postal workers, and all those unsung heroes deserving of our gratitude. The black and white illustrations allow the reader to see the rainbow of thanks covering the community and bringing everyone together. A stunning book of which 3% of the retail price will be donated to Groundwork UK to help disadvantaged communities through the pandemic. Little Ruffle and The World Beyond by Jodie Jackson,
Illustrated by Sarah-Leigh Wills
Little Ruffle has been told plenty of stories about the badness of the world, the trouble faced and problems found. She is now afraid to leave her nest until her Mother gently takes her for a flight to show the good around us. Little Ruffle looks with just one eye to begin with, seeing trees being planted, the oceans cleaned and solutions found. When the other birds were searching for stories they missed the good bits! Little Ruffle sees the good and the bad and knows she may be able to leave the nest after all. A beautiful story of facing up to the bad news and then finding solutions, and creating the world we need, “where kindness didn’t whisper, it echoed and it roared”. Charming illustrations accompany a lyrical, rhyming text and will appeal to young environmentalists and all those who seek solutions and not problems. NOah and The Starbird by Barry Timms,
Illustrated by Faye Hsu, Published by Little Tiger
A lovely, and beautifully illustrated story of patience, hope and courage. Noah’s dad is ill and in hospital, meaning Noah needs to stay with his comforting Grandma. There is a special lamp, the Starbird, which encourages Noah to be patient, guiding him to be strong and hopeful for his Dad. Realising there is magic in the little Starbird, Noah wants to share this magic and power with his Dad, and then with anyone needing a bit of help. A joyous and heartfelt story of a little boy believing in magic and having hope for his father to get better. This will bring a tear to your eye for the sheer courage and hope in one little boy is overwhelmingly beautiful. Rain Before Rainbows by Smriti Halls,
Illustrated by David Litchfield, Published by Walker Books
Originally offered as a free download in June, it is so lovely to finally hold the book in my hands. This is the ultimate author and illustrator duo, a perfect pairing for this story of hope, light in the darkness and overcoming fears and anxieties. This pandemic has shifted emotions, anxieties and fears to new places and I am thrilled to say this stunning book will provide love, support and hope to those who need it most. The simple rhyming text is beautiful and understanding while the awe-inspiring illustrations take those simple words to a poetic platform from which we leap into light and love and hope. Gift this book to all in need and let the light shine through. I can guarantee I will be reading this in every school I visit. What wonderful chats and drawing opportunities we can have, what kindness and hope we can offer our friends. Love it!
All of the books shared today have provoked different emotional reactions and responses and they are worthy of sharing far and wide. Sure to offer hope, love and courage to our children as we continue to navigate choppy waters. Love these books and will be reading them often, by myself, with my family and with my schools!
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I am a primary school teacher, turned librarian. Now I have the title Reading Advocate for ASSET Education Trust, based in Suffolk.
I read constantly and have more books than bookshelves, but I wouldn't have it any other way.
I celebrate reading every day at work and at home with my two children, aged 11 and 9.
I sit on the National Executive Committee for the Federation of Children’s Book Groups and run an OU/UKLA Teachers as Readers group!
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I love the look of fox; such an important subject that children need to understand (as well as many adults.) This looks just wonderful.