KS2 Fiction Discussion- Summer Term

Last week our Reading for Pleasure group met for their termly meeting at which they discussed the six titles selected by one of our SLS Librarians, Harriet. She shares their thoughts below and if you have any additional thoughts  to add, why not leave us a comment?

KS2 summer

Archie’s War by Marcia Williams

This was enjoyed by a lot of children, though a few found it ‘disorganised’ and a bit difficult to follow.  Good to dip into, great for WW1 research and putting history in context.  One school used it for paired reading.

Wizz Bang Wizard: Bubble Trouble by Scoular Anderson

Series for younger children, and enjoyed by them.  One boy said it was ‘the best story ever!’  The idea of the bubbles appealed.  Inventive, fun but warm stories are greatly needed at this simpler level.

The Vanishing of Billy Buckle by Sally Gardner

Terrific fun; inventive – mad even!  Good springboard to next level of reading for some children.  Enjoyed by all, whichever title had been read.  The illustrations by David Roberts are as deliciously silly as the stories.

The Last Wild by Piers Torday

Really enjoyed, by both adults and children.  Changes quite radically part way through, from a rather bleak dystopian scenario to a warmer quest with the talking animals and the two strong lead characters.  First of a series.

Being Ben by Jacqueline Roy

Too ‘babyish’ for even lower KS2 – would suit reading aloud to KS1 better.  3 stories in one book, but each too long for solo reading.

 Knightley & Son by Gavin Rohan

An enjoyable start to a new detective series.  This was enjoyed by both adults and pupils.  Sophisticated young detective, but who despite his cleverness still wants a loving dad; the relationships worked well.  Clever and different.


Feedback from our previous meetings can be found here.

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Wedding bells and happy hols

how to get married

We are all very excited in the SLS department this week, as our youngest colleague is getting married on Saturday!
We hope she has taken the serious (?) advice of Sally Lloyd-Jones and Sue Heap in ‘How to get Married by Me, the Bride’. For instance she mustn’t get married in the dark in case (gasp, horror!) she marries the wrong person.
We haven’t seen the wedding dress yet (of course), but we hope it’s something beautiful, such as, suggests ‘The Bride’:
A pure white dress like the moon
Some shining armour
A moustache
Some wings if you are a Fairy Bride

And on her head perhaps a:
Long veil
A crown
A wig
Some ears in case you’re marrying a rabbit

Maisie MaeAnd we just hope Apryl doesn’t have a bridesmaid called Maisie Mae? (‘Bad Luck Bridesmaid’ by Poppy Harper)

We hope all staff and pupils of Norfolk schools also have a wonderful (if maybe not necessarily as life changing!) holiday. We will be here ALL the time, so do get in touch or, better still CALL IN some time. We are always looking for an excuse to put the kettle on! Just give us a ring first.

Summer Reading Challenge, Rollesby Recap, and our Wednesday Reads!

In 7 days time, much excitement will be felt in schools across Norfolk as the summer holidays finally arrive. This revelation has caused us to pose two questions: 1) just where on earth has 2014 gone and 2) what will everyone be reading over the Summer?

The Mythical Maze Summer Reading Challenge 2014 officially launched last weekend and many children may have already begun to take part, reading books to receive stickers and (eventually!) a certificate and medal. It’s a great way to ensure that children maintain their reading levels over the Summer and is designed to appeal to all reading abilities. The programme is coordinated by The Reading Agency in conjunction with Libraries across the country and here in Norfolk, lots of exciting events have been planned and will be taking place in celebration of the challenge. For more information of these keep your eyes peeled on the events page of the Norfolk Library and Information Service website  and on the official NLIS twitter account.

Dee for BlogThough the end of term is approaching, our team has been keeping very busy and the last few weeks have seen our final Author visits taking place, including a successful visit to a school in King’s Lynn by our Author in Residence, Dee Shulman. Here she is with the wonderful display she was greeted with upon arrival- how lovely is that? She thoroughly enjoyed her time with us again and rumour has it, she may even pop back in the Autumn…

ButterflyOur Librarians have also been out  on several school visits across the county recently- Rollesby Primary School, for example, invited Mandy Steel to their Reading for Pleasure Day for a Story café session with Nursery parents and grandparents. She shared Butterfly Butterfly by Petr Horacek, a simple pop-up story which is great for just that age group. Beautiful bright illustrations help us share Lucy as she explores her garden looking for the butterfly which almost explodes from the last page.

Mandy encouraged the parents to make time to have fun with books and share stories and to join the Public Library.

one duck stuckNext, everyone helped to tell the story of One Duck Stuck. Many friends tried to help the duck to get out the muck in the pricky, sticky marsh- but they all had to work together to free her. Counting, repetition, rhyme, joining in and interesting language- it’s a lovely story.

Back in the classroom there were Duck finger puppets, duck masks and big white ducks to be made. Wonderfully themed activities enjoyed by all!

AND in amongst all of the above excitement, we’ve also managed to find time to read a few books- here is What we’re reading (this) Wednesday!

Apryl: I mentioned a few weeks ago that I was revisiting the works of Judy Blume and I’ve just begun to re-read both Forever and Deenie, two classics by the American author. I also spent 24 hours this weekend devouring Dawn O’Porter’s brilliant Goose, a follow-up to her debut novel Paper Aeroplanes which I thoroughly enjoyed last year. I loved jumping back into Renee and Flo’s story to see how their lives had changed now they’re in sixth form, and I was not disappointed- a wonderful teen read with an authentic and relatable british voice, it’s even better than the first instalment (and apparently, there is to be a third- yippee!)

Harriet: Cowgirl by G.R. Gemin- This is an entertaining story which would appeal to Jacqueline Wilson fans.  Set on a council estate in a small town in Wales, the community comes together to help a local farm keep its herd of cows, when it is threatened with being bought out by a larger neighbouring farmer.  It is easy to see this making an excellent TV drama, with its dysfunctional families, the farcical attempts to hide the cows in the back yards of the council houses, and the final joyful resolution.  The main characters are very appealing and the tone, although the situations are serious, fairly light and sometimes amusing.

Kirsten: currently enjoying (and trying to keep pristine my signed copy of) Patrick Ness’s More Than This. The book is told in a mixture of  flash backs, and what seems to be a post death reality experience – only a third of the way through so it’s all still unfolding. I like sci-fi and young adult fiction and I am a big Patrick Ness appreciator – so all good so far!

Mandy: I’m really enjoying (guilty pleasure I think!) Silver by Andrew Motion, former Poet Laureate. It’s a rollicking good pirate adventure, written as a sequel to Treasure Island, with Jim Hawkins’s son and Long John Silver’s daughter as the main characters, returning to find the rest of the treasure. It’s long, and written (beautifully) with a feel for the slightly archaic language of Treasure Island and including all the elements you’d expect, storms and becalmings, evil pirates and good honourable captains, treasure and murders! Great for y7&8 boys and girls and all fans of Pirates of the Caribbean!

You can see our past mid-week reads here.

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Wednesday Reads on a Thursday- whoops!

We have a slight confession- we may have been having so much fun yesterday that we forgot to post on the blog. I know, it’s bad form, but listen- yesterday we attended the Norfolk Children’s Book Festival at Norwich School where we saw (and met!) Simon Mayo, Cathy MacPhail, Paul Dowswell and Marcus Sedgwick, all of whom gave exciting and engaging talks about their books. Combine that with the wonderful weather and maybe you’ll understand why this entry might have momentarily slipped our minds.

We promise that we’ll try to not do it again and as an apology, here are our currently book choices which we hope were worth waiting for.

What we’re reading Wednesday! (Thursday edition).

Apryl: Finally we’re free of Carnegie! I’d been so preoccupied with reading the shortlisted titles for the last few months but last week I was finally able to finish some of the books that had been put to one side until I had some free time. I finally finished Love Letters to the Dead by Ava Dellaira (which I’d mentioned on the blog before) which I thought was incredibly moving, and in one sitting this weekend I started and finished the American YA classic Weetzie Bat by Francesca Lia Block which garnered a cult following upon publication in 1989. Totally kooky, it made a nice contrast to everything I’d read for CKG!

Gail: I’ve just reread Shrunk! by FR Hitchcock for the Methwold Reading Group session. A fun adventure with magic/science fiction and facts about Space which the Y5 and 6 group enjoyed. Pupils then invented a sequel based on a meteorite’s special powers. Be careful what you wish for on a shooting star!

Harriet: Knightley and Son by Rohan Gavin (from memory)  – not sure that’s all correct. Our KS2 reading for pleasure group is currently reading this detective story.  I like the serious young hero, whose powers of deduction are little short of genius, and although I’ve not yet finished I’m sure he will solve the supernatural problems.  A sinister force has been set loose, and as his father, who officially works for Scotland Yard, has been struck mysteriously ill, it is down to young Darkus to defeat the evil forces affecting any who read a seemingly innocuous self-help book.  Quite light in tone, this is a good read.

Mandy: Lilliput by Sam Gayton- Gulliver’s Travels has always seemed a bit beyond me, but this twist on the story is very accessible. Lilly has been kidnapped from Lilliput by Gulliver as proof that such a place really does exist. Help captive and having to endure punishments like being kept in a flea ridden sock (eurgh) serve to strengthen her determination to escape. This is a great adventure with interesting characters and plot twists. Gayton makes pleanty of references to the original- which makes this a very readable follow-up. Try for Y5/6.

All of our past Wednesday read selections can be found here.

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CILIP Carnegie Medal and Kate Greenaway Prize 2014

On Monday afternoon the winners of the 2014 CILIP Carnegie Medal and Kate Greenaway Prize were announced, delivered to Kevin Brooks’ ‘The Bunker Diary’ and Jon Klassen’s ‘This Is Not My Hat’ respectively. While the latter seemed an almost logical choice- an illustrator whose work is greatly loved in our office- the awarding of the top prize to Kevin Brooks has been controversial, with the win garnering much attention in the national press. Much of the debate has surrounded the book’s gritty content and indeed its suitability in a text aimed at a young audience. That said, many of the nominated titles this year seemed to have a dark undertone, with perhaps ‘Liar & Spy’ and ‘Rooftoppers’ falling outside of this bracket.

The “darkness” of the shortlist was an issue raised at the shadowing session we attended on Monday morning. Taking place in the wonderful library at Litcham School, a group of year 9 students were joined by visiting pupils from Long Stratton High, all of whom had taken part in the shadowing scheme this year. After a brief quiz in which they were tested on their knowledge of the books selected for this year’s lists, the students were put into small groups and each of the titles were discussed. We were so impressed with the quality of their responses and the students had evidently thought hard about why they liked (or indeed, disliked!) each of the books.

The content of discussion was vast and ranged from how misleading a book cover can often be (in particular, the variations between the paperback and hardback covers of ‘The Child’s Elephant’) to the significance of centering a story around real life social, political and cultural history (‘Ghost Hawk’ and ‘The Wall’). The students’ impassioned reactions were brilliant to see and hear and we’d like to thank the pupils of Litcham School and Long Stratton High for sharing with us their thoughts!

To mirror the real announcements taking place in London, the students each cast a vote on which of the titles they would pick to win and the results were as follows:

  • The Wall by William Sutcliffe: 5 votes
  • Rooftoppers by Katherine Rundell: 4 votes
  • The Bunker Diary by Kevin Brooks: 3 votes
  • All The Truth That’s In Me by Julie Berry: 2 votes
  • The Child’s Elephant by Rachel Campbell-Johnston: 2 votes
  • Blood Family by Anne Fine: 2 votes
  • Ghost Hawk by Susan Cooper: 1 vote
  • Liar & Spy by Rebecca Stead: 0 votes

We were pleasantly surprised to see ‘The Wall’ come out on top and were even more impressed with how many of the students present mentioned the way in which the story had made them want to familiarise themselves further with the Israeli-Palestine conflict on which the story is based. The results of our poll were also interesting when compared to how we in the office had ranked the books: Julie Berry’s ‘All The Truth That’s In Me’ was our favourite to win, with ‘The Bunker Diary’ largely disliked.

The groups of students also looked at the Kate Greenaway titles and the vote for this was unanimous: ‘The Day the Crayons Quit’ by Drew Daywalt and Oliver Jeffers! However it was agreed that Jon Klassen’s work in both the Lemony Snickett collaboration ‘The Dark’ and in his own right (‘This Is Not My Hat’) would be worthy of any award, so his win came as no surprise!

Overall, we had such a wonderful morning and are already looking toward next year’s awards: what’s next for Carnegie?

Below are extracts from two of the reviews written by students from Litcham- we thought they were so great that they deserved to be shared!

Of Anne Fine’s ‘Blood Family’, Hannah wrote:

‘Despite the depressing subject matter, I really enjoyed Blood Family because I felt the storyline was very true to life and believable. This tale of an adopted child in a caring family made me realise how hard it is to live life to the full when you have a looming shadow of your horrific past hovering over you day and night.

I thought the book well written and easy to read and I couldn’t put it down. I particularly like the way the story was written from the perspective of different people so you can see how Eddie’s life and traumas impact on other people’s lives, and how they perceive what is going on.’

 On ‘The Wall’, Eleanor wrote:

I found it both an adventurous and thrilling book. I thought it had an original story line and I liked the fact that it is based on something that us really happening now and so combines fact with fiction. I’ve learnt a lot from reading this book on a subject I didn’t know a lot about.

 I loved the fact that the story is written through the innocent eyes of thirteen year old Joshua. I liked him as a character because he wasn’t afraid to stand up for what he thought was right and to help other people who he was told didn’t deserve it. he matured through the book from a boy who was kept in the dark to a man who wasn’t afraid to make his own decisions.’

 What are your thoughts on this year’s winners? We’d love to know- we can’t stop talking about here!

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‘Where Do You Get Your Ideas From?’ – a guest post from Susannah Leigh

As you may know (because we have mentioned it before, many times!) here at the School Library Service we’ve been working with some brilliant Authors, getting them out and about and into schools across Norfolk. These visits have been proving very successful and we’re pleased to be facilitating such brilliant events!

One author we’ve been working with is Susannah Leigh; a writer and editor, not only is she Norfolk-based, but she herself works in a Library, so she understands just how brilliant books are and how important it is to promote a rich reading culture. In our second guest post, we asked her to share her thoughts on school visits…

 One of the most common questions I get asked as an author is ‘where do you get your ideas from?’ It’s a valid question because often ideas are hard to come by, especially when working home alone. So a visit to a primary school is an excellent reminder that there are zillions of ideas out there, whizzing around the imaginations of fabulously engaged pupils.

During my time with a class we talk about story and structure, about the fact that authors don’t get it right the first time and there are many mistakes and re-drafts along the way. We learn that authors don’t work in isolation. They have editors who, just like teachers, help them find better ways to tell a story. We tackle mazes and puzzles and think about strategies to move the action along. And we talk about the things you might expect to find in a story, and how to make it your own. At Necton Primary we devised a blood-thirsty pirate tale.  A one-eyed captain with a peg leg AND a hook, hedgehogs fired as cannonballs, a zombie pirate battle and a treasure chest full of beef burgers (you can build up quite an appetite digging for treasure) were just some of the fantastic ideas the pupils came up with. (No hedgehogs were harmed in the telling of the story, but the battle was fierce and furious).

For authors, and for pupils a school visit is a chance to discover that when you start to explore ideas together, stories happen.

 You can read the first of our author guest posts here.

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Refugee Week

Today sees the start of Refugee week, which runs from the 16th to the 22nd June. Now in its sixteenth year, the UK-wide celebration is specifically designed, as the organisers say themselves, to “create better understanding between different communities and to encourage successful integration enabling refugees to live in safety and to continue making a valuable contribution to the UK”. Showcasing the diversity of the UK, events take place across the country and include music, arts, theatre and film. More information can be found here on their website, which is well worth a look. They have an abundance of educational resources to support teaching and include interesting ways of approaching the idea of exile and asylum with your class.

This year’s theme is ‘Different Pasts, Shared Future’ and takes a specific look at the contributions (and future contributions!) of refugee children and young people within the UK.

AzziOne of our book choices to explore alongside any refugee-themed study would be Azzi in between by Sarah Garland (Frances Lincoln, £12.99 hardback, 9781847802613). Forced to leave their home in the wake of conflict, Azzi and her parents must travel in search of safe, leaving friends and family behind. As the story unfolds, Azzi must come to terms with her new life in a country that is not her own. The book handles a difficult subject in a tender way and would make a great discussion title for a key stage 2 class.

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Bookstart Week and our Wednesday Reads

superduckThis week it’s National Bookstart Week and this year’s theme is ‘My Hero’. The campaign – taking place from 9th-15th June -celebrates books and reading and encourages families to read every day as a fun shared experience. The official website (linked above) has extra information and some resources, including activities you can do at home.

Bookstart are also giving away special copies of Jez Alborough’s Super Duck at libraries across the country and there are lots of hero-themed events taking place too! To see what’s taking place in your area, why not take a look here and if (like us!) you’re in Norfolk, you can see a list of events taking place in our libraries here.

DSCF2991Pictured is our Norfolk Book Scheme co-ordinator, Beth Southard, at a story time event at a library last week: as you can see, all the children seem quite pleased with their free copies of Super Duck!



How exciting! Now, onto other mid-week excitements: What we’re reading Wednesday!

Apryl: Inexplicably, I have three books on the go at the moment- a situation I don’t ordinarily let myself get into! I’m currently enjoying two new YA novels: Amy & Matthew by Cammie McGovern, and Love Letters to the Dead by Ava Dellaira; I’m particularly enamoured by the latter in which a girl attempts to get over the death of her older sister by writing letters to famous people who are no longer with us- Amelia Earhart, Kurt Cobain, and Judy Garland, to name a few! It’s a very interesting and unusual concept and I’m really enjoying it. I’ve also just decided to re-read a few modern classics by the brilliant Judy Blume, the first of which I’ve picked is Tiger Eyes. I loved Judy’s books when I was growing up and I was inspired to revisit her work after hearing about her recent visit to the UK to attend the Hay Festival.

Caroline: Still pushing on with the Carnegie titles at the moment: I’m reading Katherine Rundell’s Rooftoppers which, like everyone else it seems, I’m enjoying very much!

Gail: At the moment I am reading All the Truth That’s in Me by Juleie Berry (another Carnegie!). Was initially put off by horrific fact that ‘narrator’ has had her tongue cut out but it’s proving to be a beautiful, personal and engaging tale.

Harriet: Much as some of us in this department might wish it, this couldn’t be a completely World Cup free zone, as of course football books are among the most popular with our young audience.  Kicking a Ball is one of Ahlberg’s well-known poems from his Heard It in the Playground collection, but slightly simplified and given lovely illustrations by Sebastian Braun, to make it a very appealing title for younger fans – and that’s not just football fans, but devoted followers of poetry and Ahlberg too!

Mandy: I have really enjoyed The Elephant’s Child by Rachel Campbell-Johnson. Her characters are very likeable, especially Bat, the main boy character, and believable except for the ones we’re not meant to like! The book moves between Ugandan village and the horror of war and back with the elephant’s presence weaving in and out of the story, a great story, well told!

Interested in what else we’ve been reading recently? You can read our archive of Wednesday picks here.

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Planning for Success

Here at the School Library Service, we’re not just about books (though we are quite literally surrounded by them in our office!)- we also promote and offer training to support school and library staff throughout the year, some details of which you can see here. This week we’ve had two courses taking place and one of our SLS Librarians, Mandy, offers this little recap of one:

High School Librarians were challenged to pat their heads and rub their tummies by trainer Jerry Hurst at his challenging “Planning for Success” inset on Tuesday. Understanding the processes which mean that planning for the school library is securely linked to the School Improvement Plan is so important. Jerry helped us to understand that we must plan so that indicators of progress or improvement can easily be harvested as evidence, and that making yourself indispensible will place your library at the heart of the school. Thanks Jerry for a very useful, stimulating and interesting day.

Jerry Hurst

 (Some of the work Jerry got the delegates to take part in).

Jerry can be found on twitter: @jerryhurst and on the web here.

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This little scientific geek, Much havoc does he like to wreak…

ghosts on the looseA pleasure it’s been
To read Mortimer Keene
The rhyming is slick,
The action is quick.

Illustrated all through
In black, white and blue,
This series will run
As there’s guaranteed fun!

Phew, that was hard work, and it’s sooo bad – just confirming how difficult it is actually to come up with a rollicking rhyming story, with a vocabulary suitable for emergent readers, and an exciting romp of a plot.  The lively illustrations by Chris Mould are an integral part of the story, and add a suitable air of ghostly mystery.

(Healey, Tim and Chris Mould: Ghosts on the Loose, Hodder £4.99 9780340997741)

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