This month sees the long awaited official launch of our bookselling site bestbooksforschools.com and it is packed full of quality children’s literature. ‘Best’ books are not necessarily literary, nor do they necessarily contain philosophical ideas, deep themes or challenging vocabulary. Best books have one thing in common – quality: quality writing, illustration and production within their genre. Our BestBooksforSchools site provides excellent value on single titles and many curated packs for quick click purchasing. We have spent countless hours (many of them small and wee!) grouping collections of relevant topics such as Wellbeing, Empathy, BAME authors and Green Issues in addition to award winning sets and of course curriculum collections too. I highly recommend browsing for increasing your own book knowledge. Many of the books have linked reviews from our expert panel and/or links to interviews with the authors from our very own ‘Queen of Chat’, Nikki Gamble – who never fails to get to the heart of an author and their writing.
Best Books for Now
Another long awaited milestone is the ‘freedom’ to go out, to explore, visit new places and live life to the fullest. Of course we can always do this through literature and working in children’s education gives us access to the very best stories for curious minds.
Some timely titles that I think consolidate how we are feeling as a national and global community include the third huggable instalment from Eoin Mc Laughlin and Polly Dunbar: The aptly named The Longer the Wait the Bigger the Hug. These books encapsulate how many of us have been feeling in addition to providing the opportunity to look at tolerance and celebrate difference.
Other titles that I think are well suited to sharing at this time are the picturebooks about Stillwater, the Panda whom you may have seen on Apple TV. Now published in paperback, he books were originally written before the television adaptation, so like the Octonauts series, which provided my own children with much of their ocean knowledge! these titles encapsulate quality writing and beautiful illustration too. Zen Shorts and Addy’s Cup of Sugar are based on Buddhist stories of healing and offer comfort and calm amidst our ever changing circumstances.
During the first Lockdown, I subscribed to Positive News and I found it enormously uplifting to read about rewilding, the anthropause and reduction in pollution as an antidote to all the doom and gloom of the tabloids . Rashmi Sirdeshpande’s Good News: Why the World Is Not As Bad As You Think offers children a lighter brighter news feed.
Whilst many may wish to forget about the pandemic, children are naturally curious and age appropriate nonfiction can be an enormous source of reassurance. The highly accessible ‘Big Ideas That Changed the World’ series offers a high interest format and informative narrative. A Shot in the Arm! is narrated by Lady Mary Wortley Montagu, who historically popularized inoculation in England in the early 18th century. ‘Humour, drama, and art unite to tell the story of events, discoveries, and ingenuity over time that led humans to come up with a big idea and then make it come true.’
A Song of Gladness is a joy of a book: a ‘rich and glorious celebration of humanity’s connection to the natural world’. A collaboration of this calibre can only equal success. The ‘song’ reminds us of our connection with nature, and with each other, and the unquestionable need for us to work together in caring for the planet and every creature in it. Follow the blackbird, fox, otter, kingfisher, cows, whales, lions, wilderbeast and the rest of the menagerie of animals across the globe as they embrace the idea of the song of gladness – sing away your sadness. The perfect ‘last read of the term’ in class or assembly.
In July we are spotlighting books featuring tigers to celebrate Global Tiger Day on 29th July. Here is a fine example from the brilliant Dianne Hofmeyr with thought provoking illustrations from Jess Hodgson. Tiger Walk begins with Henri Rousseau’s Tiger in a Tropical Storm which inspires a young boy’s imagination and his own tiger drawing leaps off the page. A night-time prowl follows in a busy jungle where the tiger helps the boy to overcome his fears. Fans of James Mayhew’s Katie books will enjoy.
Marcia Williams The Fantastic Book of Feelings: A Guide to Being Happy, Sad and Everything In-Between! You can listen to Marcia discussing this title in an interview with Nikki Gamble and sharing her thoughts about feelings and how to deal with them. A particularly pertinent topic at the present time as many children come to terms with re-establishing relationships having spent time in small bubbles.
Best Books for Year 6 in the Summer Term
For Year 6 this is a tumultuous time full of celebration, excitement and trepidation. The final term is awash with feelings. In addition to old favourites such as The Unforgotten Coat and the perfect transition companion Steve Camden’s CLiPPA winning Everything all at Once poetry collection , we have seen the publication of the brilliant The Boy who Made Everyone Laugh and Jennifer Killick’s popular Crater Lake and Crater Lake Evolution, which offer humour and horror for those brave enough to endure a residential. In a similar vein, but in a different style is Escape from Camp Boring by Tom Mitchell (a former teacher who never fails to see the funny side of the lives of pre-pubescent teens).
Steve Camden’s first novel for readers of 8 to 11, My Big Mouth publishes in July. A story of friendship, storytelling and the price of being cool with highly appealing illustrations from Chanté Timothy. You can view more fantastic July publications in our July collections at bestbooksforschools.com
Lockdown limitations have affected publication, distribution, bookselling and librarianship enormously and I am proud to see how each area of the book sector has risen to the challenges of the last 18 months. A wave I think we can all celebrate is the wave of best books: brilliant fiction, nonfiction, poetry and graphic novels that continue to land on our doorsteps offering us a link to the outside world: to human nature, to humour, to curiosity and to wonder.