Peters Book of the Year and Advent, Week 3!

This time next week, Christmas will be over! *pause for contemplative sigh at the prospect of mince pies disappearing from the shelves*.  2014 has certainly whizzed past and by the time you read this, schools across Norfolk will have finished for the holidays- we can only begin to imagine how much excitement was felt across the county at 3pm today!

The end of another 12 calendar months means one thing: end of year lists and book awards, and one we always look forward to is the book of the year prize awarded by Peters Books and Furniture. Last year we held a picture book party at a local school in honour of this section of the shortlist and in 2015 we’ll be doing the same as Champions! We are SO excited already;  the picture book short list is particularly strong this year, so we’re interested to see what comes out on top- we can’t possibly choose (yet).

Voting for the award is now open, and the official website has lots of resources for schools to use if   you’re interested in shadowing the event; there are also prizes for Junior and Teen fiction, so the possibilities are endless! For more information, including the shortlists and voting information, why not take a look at  .

Now, onto week 3 of our Advent Book Doors, and make sure you check back next week for our CHRISTMAS EVE SPECIAL!

Advent Week 3

Non-fiction: Over and Under the Snow by Kate Messner, Illustrated by  Christopher Silas Neal

A gorgeous picture book about how animals survive in the snow.  Unfortunately, the habitat is American so a few of the animals featured would not be found in this country, but most are, and there are more details about the individual creatures at the back of the book.  The text is lyrical and it will read nicely just as a KS1 level story.

Picture book: Use Your Imagination by Nicola O’Byrne

Need your children to use their imaginations?  This could help – maybe!  Rabbit is bored, and Wolf offers to help, but immediately our suspicions are roused of course, and as Rabbit seems more and more likely to end up as Wolf’s dinner, we get more and more anxious about the outcome…

Lots for children to anticipate and ‘use their imaginations’ with.

Novel: Blue Moon Day by Anne Fine

A boy, feigning illness to get off school for the day, staves off boredom while having to accompany his mum at work, by reading a book of short stories.  They are all about coping with different types of school experience.  At the same time as gaining insight into other children’s experiences, he learns more about the adult world he is part of, including the difficulties his dad must go through every time he returns to family life after a spell as a soldier on duty.

This sounds much heavier than it is, as Fine is such a skilled story teller.

Teen: Ghosts of Heaven by Marcus Sedgwick

We LOVE Marcus in our office and several of our team were utterly captivated by She is Not Invisible when they finally got round to reading it this year. Ghosts of Heaven, however, is more evocative of the Carnegie-nominated Midwinterblood which we also loved ; his newest book sees four interwoven and connected stories,  beautifully written and taking us from the dawn of time to a place in the future. A wonderful concept and one of the most interesting reads we’ve had this year!

You can see weeks 1 and 2 of our countdown here.

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Festive Countdown: Week 2!


Baffling but true fact of the day: there are only 13 days until Christmas..! As we creep ever closer to the end of term, we’re up to our eyes in project box assembling but that doesn’t mean we don’t have time for other frivolities- below you can see the second week of book selections as we reveal what’s inside our Advent Book Doors…

Advent Week 2

Non-fiction: DK Eye Wonder- Dinosaurs

OK so they’re not new, but to a new generation of children the DK Eyewonder and Pocket Eyewitness series are fabulous value: hardbacks at only £4.99.  Unbeatable.  Usborne have led the way with cheap excellent value non-fiction hardbacks (love their ribbon bookmarks too!) and DK are following suit, with their trademark excellent quality photography.  We recently bought some of the reprint editions for our school mobile library on popular topics like dinosaurs, reptiles and horses and they’re flying off the shelves –  what’s not to love??

Picture book: Vanilla Ice Cream by Bob Graham

Graham does it again! This is a beautiful story, told more in pictures than words, about the wonder of how we are all connected.  It moves from India to Australia in the company of one small sparrow, and turns tiny seemingly non-events into something momentous and awe-inspiring.

Novel: Dog In No-Man’s-Land by Damian Kelleher and illlustrated by Gary Blythe        

There is a plethora of stories around at the moment about animals involved in war, but this one is particularly unusual in its approach.  It is partly epistolary, and the letters come in actual small envelopes attached onto the page.  Full of atmospheric drawings by Blythe, it is quite a short read, and is quite as moving as one could expect from the theme.

Teen: Noble Conflict by Malorie Blackman

This is a dystopian novel for teens, in which a young man’s trust and belief in the goodness of his world gradually crumbles and more and more adults reveal their treachery and corruption.  Enjoyable, with echoes of other novels, including 1984, but with a more upbeat ending.

You can see the first week of our countdown here.

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Kids’ Lit Quiz Success for Litcham School!

There were unparalleled levels of excitement in our office last Thursday (4th December) as our team discovered that Norfolk’s own Litcham School had been crowned the winners of the UK heat of the 2014 Kids Lit Quiz! The news trickled in through twitter and we were so pleased to hear of their success- it couldn’t have been awarded to a nicer team; their 12-point lead at our Norfolk heat a few weeks before had meant that we were all hoping they would go far! According to reports from the event which took place at King’s College Wimbledon, the overall winner was decided in the final round- so it was close! Litcham’s team were awarded a plethora of prices, including a trophy and of course an invitation to attend the International final in 2015.

We wish the team, along with their Librarian, Cathy Berry, a hearty congratulations- we bet they’re suitably elated and already looking forward to the prospect of a possible trip to the USA for the Final taking place in Connecticut next Summer!

Quiz master Wayne’s account of the Final can be found over on the official Kids’s Lit Quiz blog here.


Our Festive Countdown 2014

Here in the SLS office we love a good list and in view of impending festive celebrations (20 days!), we decided to follow last year’s Advent Book Wreath with another weekly countdown- only this time, we’ll be sharing FOUR books each time instead of one. Some of the titles are new, some are old, some may even be contenders for our best books of 2014 but either way, we just want to share them with you!

Below are the first books to appear in our Advent Book Doors- this year we’ve decided to choose a Non-Fiction title, a picture book, a Novel, and a Teen title, and we’ll have three more posts of this kind over the next three weeks! 

Advent 2014 Week 1

Non-fiction: How Big Is 43 Quintillion? By Lynn Huggins-Cooper.

This bright and jolly book celebrates numbers, and tells us some awe-inspiring facts and figures which really help make Maths alive and exciting. It will be a useful addition (ha!) to next year’s Summer Reading Challenge theme (yes, I know that feels a long way away!) of record breakers.

Picture book: This Book Just Ate My Dog by Richard Byrne

A hilarious twist on expectations, the reader does indeed see the book ‘eat’ a little girl’s dog – and then some! With simple illustrations and a text which begs to be read aloud this is a fun book to share with one small person to a hundred.

Novel: Listen to the Moon by Michael Morpurgo

Yet another First World War novel, this is nevertheless a lovely addition to the genre. Although rather long and needing a good edit, it is full of Morpurgo’s characteristic interwoven themes and warm rounded characters – foe as well as friend. The reader learns little known facts about the war effortlessly, while feeling fully part of the characters’ world.

Teen: The Disreputable History of Franklie Landau-Banks by E. Lockhart

Lockhart’s We Were Liars was one of the most interesting teen novels we came across this year and following its success, Hot Key Books have republished this, one of the author’s older novels from 2009. Set in a boarding school, we meet 15-year-old Frankie who decides she’s had enough of one of the institution’s historic all-male societies. As quick paced and intriguing as We Were Liars, this book is likely to be loved by any keen YA fan.

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Kids Lit Quiz 2014- Norfolk Heat

Last week, on a very chilly Thursday afternoon , students from schools across Norfolk (and a visiting school from Lincolnshire!) gathered in City Academy’s fantastic atrium in Norwich for the Norfolk heat of the 2014 Kids’ Lit Quiz.

This year we had 29 teams representing 17 schools, and it was evident that they had all been training hard; once again, we were overwhelmed by just how much the students competing knew about a wide range of literature. There was a great atmosphere and as always, it was a pleasure to talk to so many young people who had a clear passion and enthusiasm for reading.


Visiting Quizmaster Wayne Mills delivered over 100 questions across 10 rounds, as well as spot prizes and a few tie-breakers (including one for a coveted 3rd place!) but by 5.30pm we knew who the winners were; Litcham School, whose Team A scored an amazing 87 points- a significant lead over any other team! They were awarded the prize cup and a book prize of £80 by renowned author and current President of the SLA, Kevin Crossley-Holland, who was also part of the afternoon’s marking committee.


Litcham winners looking very happy!

A team from last year’s victors, Thetford Grammar, came 2nd with 75 points and Old Buckenham High claimed 3rd place with 73(.5) points. A big congratulations to Thorpe St Andrew High who narrowly missed out on making the top 3 after a half-point tie-break question was used to determine their final ranking.

As you can see, the scores this year were incredibly close- often a just few points separating teams. As ever, Wayne was very impressed with the results, especially Litcham School’s winning 12 point lead. Below is the final top ten:

Position School Total Score
1st Litcham School Team A 87
2nd Thetford Grammar Team A 75
3rd Old Buckenham High 73.5
4th Thorpe St Andrew Team B 73
5th Thorpe St Andrew Team A 72.5
6th Thetford Grammar Team B 72
7th Hethersett Academy Team B 70
8th Hethersett Academy Team A 69
9th Taverham High 68
10th Wymondham College 67

We were joined once again by an Author & Librarian team in which Alexander Gordon Smith- author of the horror series’ Escape From Furnace and Fury- participated, alongside two high school Librarians and one of our Norfolk Community Librarians. Their team gained 87.5 points- just a half-point difference from the student winners- and we’d like to thank him not only for taking part in the afternoon’s festivities by asking several of the spot-prizes questions, but for meeting all of the students and signing so many of their books. We also have it on good authority that he was just as excited as the students to meet Kevin Crossley-Holland!

We’d like to congratulate Litcham School for their triumphant win and will be looking forward to seeing how they fare at the National Final next week- we’ll  definitely be reporting back on how they do! A huge well done also to Thetford Grammar and Old Buckenham High, and to each of the students who participated. Once again, it was a real pleasure to meet and chat to so many of you and absolutely loved just how enthusiastic you all were- it was contagious! If you took part or came along for the afternoon, we really hope you enjoyed the day as much as we all did and look forward to seeing you again next year.

Wayne has been hot-footing around the UK since he arrived from New Zealand a few weeks ago and has several heats to go before the national final in Wimbledon next month. He has been writing a recap of each quiz on the official kids lit quiz blog which you can find here. We also live tweeted the afternoon on our official SLS twitter account, so why not have a look through our time line for photos and comments from the afternoon.


Delightful displays and wednesday reads!

One of the best things about being part of our team is that we get to visit so many lovely school libraries across the county and in turn meet enthusiastic staff with a real passion for reading. Last week, we mentioned the makeover Loddon Junior School had given their library- we still can’t get over what a lovely idea it is to transform the space every year based on a pupil’s suggestion!

More recently we visited a school in the west of the county, Greyfriars Primary in King’s Lynn and were similarly impressed with the displays adorning the walls of their library. The two below caught my eye- both themed displays on the work of David Walliams and Daniel Postgate respectively, they’re brilliant examples of how to get pupils to respond to the books they’re reading creatively and what better place to show this off than in the library?

GF for blog

GF for blog 2

We’re forever finding ourselves impressed by school displays- maybe Norfolk has some particularly creative school staff!

Now: onto what we’re reading Wednesday!

Apryl: Two books arrived on my desk this week which I couldn’t be more overjoyed to see- Flora & Ulysses by Kate DiCamillo and Goth Girl and the Fete Worse Than Death by Chris Riddell. I’ve been anticipating both of these and am really looking forward to starting them in the hope that they will lift me out of my junior book slump (I’ve been reading far too much grown up fiction lately)!

Gail: I’ve nearly finished The Ice Thief by Susan Gates, a simple adventure story based on traditional tales, perfect for year 3!

Harriet: Smart by Kim Slater is a sad but ultimately heart warming story narrated in the first person by a young man who has special needs, though we don’t learn exactly what they are.  It is a murder mystery set in Nottingham along the River Trent, and the river and the area where he lives play an important part in the novel.  The author also takes us into a homeless hostel which is interesting and thought-provoking.  Kieran is extremely observant, and notes small details, which of course help him in his self-imposed role as detective.  Unfortunately his mother has a violent partner who treats her and young Kieran, and the dog, with brutal cruelty, and the terrific tensions of home life are brought out vividly and forcefully.  However all ends happily with both crime solved and our hero regaining love and security.

Goldilocks and the Three Dinosaurs by Mo Willems is a hoot, with surreal elements which add to the fun.  It is of course a version of the well-known fairy tale, illustrated in Willems’ characteristic (Pigeon On the Bus etc) muted, unfussy cartoon-y style.  Even the end-papers contain a joke, and it should read aloud well.

Mandy: We’re Going to Build a Dam by Gillian McClure

We are very happy to announce a new partnership with this Author, who is booked for some school visits next term. This is a charming Picture Book about the joys of “messing about” on the beach, two children using their imagination and learning a lot about structures and construction along the way- finding the right stream, collecting the right materials, success…and inevitable ultimate failure as the power of the water overwhelms the Dam. Good old-fashioned play!

Our previous wednesday reads can be found here.

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Loddon Junior’s Lovely Library!

We love the idea behind Loddon Junior School’s annual makeover of their school library, which involves the whole school and creates a real buzz and air of excitement. 

The school holds a competition for the best design for the year, and then everyone contributes something.  Last year’s theme of Harry Potter was chosen by Year 6 and the library turned into Hogwarts for the year, along with various characters from the books.  While I was working there this all came down (so not much was left for the photo I’m afraid!) HP at Loddon Junior

Meanwhile, the whole school was busily creating new material of all kinds and covering many aspects of the curriculum, for a big Launch Day in mid October. 

Loddon Junior library makeover

Wonka at Loddon Junior

This simple but whole school approach really encourages ownership of and excitement around the library, and that in turn will help turn the school community into enthusiastic and happy readers – well done Loddon Junior!


Wednesday reads and exciting Conference news!

Half term is done and dusted which means we’re now debating when we can start counting down to Christmas (which is in 7 weeks and 1 day, not that we checked…). Lots of exciting things have happened since we last blogged- here are a few worth mentioning:

  • The nominations for the 2015 Carnegie Medal and Kate Greenaway Prize were announced and feature lots of books we’ve enjoyed reading this year. The longlists aren’t confirmed until the new year (10th February!), but we’ve already begun speculating who we think might succeed next summer…!
  • The nominations for the 2015 Red House Children’s Book Award were revealed and unlike many prizes, the outcome is determined by the general public and if you’re a school, you can submit a collected vote here. The shortlists for each section are very varied and we like how there are prizes for authors writing for younger readers, older readers, and younger children. The winners will be announced in February, so get voting!
  • The always brilliant Seven Stories put together a list of what they consider to be 50 books which help celebrate the diversity in modern Britain. From early years to teenage, it really is a wonderful list designed to show how multiracial the UK really is.
  • 3rd-9th November is Dyslexia Awareness week and there’s plenty of useful information on the Dyslexia Action website. We also really enjoyed this great piece in The Guardian written by acclaimed author and Carnegie Medal winner Sally Gardner about her own struggles with dyslexia . Speaking of Sally, we have some exciting news to share… 

After the success of our Conference in March this year, we’ve another planned for 2015 and we’re very proud of what our team have put together. Titled Cracking the Code, our Detective themed conference will be taking place on Monday 2nd March at the Green Britain Centre in Swaffham. Aimed at KS2 Teachers and TAs, we hope the day will assist in inspiring Reading for Pleasure across the curriculum and we’re especially pleased to announce that we will be hosting sessions from the following brilliant authors:

  • Sally Gardner, Carnegie winner and author of the Wings & Co series
  • Andrew Cope, motivational speaker and writer of the popular Spy Dogs, Spy Cats, and Spy Pups series
  • HL Dennis, author of Secret Breakers
  • Kate Pankhurst, illustrator and author of the new Mariella Mysteries series.

That’s not all- we’ll also have workshops from the Green Britain Centre themselves, as well as Forensic workshops by Pulse CSI and an Archaeology session from the Museum Service. Even though it is a few months away yet, we’re very excited and hope that you will be too- and if that’s the case, why not come along? The whole day is priced at 2 SLS tokens; For more information , see our flyer and to book a place, contact our office directly.

Phew! Got time for a few book recommendations? Here’s What we’re reading (this) Wednesday:

Apryl: I’ve been reading lots of grown-up crime thrillers recently instead of the pile of SLS-friendly books I’ve been meaning to focus on, but not to worry- two wonderful picture books fell into my lap this week whilst cataloguing! The first is The Zebra Who Ran Too Fast by Jenni Desmond, – the illustrations in this are amazing (can’t tell who I love more, the elephant or the zebra) and the accompanying story is lovely too, a simple tale of friendship. The second is The Best Book in the World by Alexander Rilla, another striking title from publisher Flying Eye Books. I found the retro style and minimal colour of this to be particularly appealing- definitely worth a look if you’re after something that reaffirms what a journey reading can be!

Gail: Close to the Wind by John Walter; a wonderful story which stays with you after you’ve finish reading. Simply written but very emotional with lots to discuss- war, refugees, betrayal, moral dilemmas. I can only say that it’s about a child who escapes a war-torn country (we don’t know which war or which country)- to add anymore would spoil the story!

Harriet: It seemed just right to be reading Shiverton Hall by Emerald Fennell over Hallowe’en.  I was actually reading the second in the series, but it didn’t matter that I’d not read the first.  It is very scary and in places a strong stomach is required, but its Gothic atmosphere and boarding school setting will appeal to Harry Potter fans.  It includes whole chapters which are complete ghost stories set in the past, but which are all relevant to the plot and which help build up the tension.  The ending is very ambivalent and leaves the reader wondering what can possibly happen next.  Read the next if you dare…I would recommend this to – brave – top KS2 and KS3 readers:

Kirsten: I am working my way through the wonderful selection of FREE books that Booktrust send to each school FREE every year… this year I am reading the books sent to Secondary Schools – the FREE books include John Townsend’s Mad Bad and Just Plain Dangerous World War II information book – guaranteed to interest most boys I know in history… Pig and The Talking Poo (don’t worry – it’s a plastic poo – and a funny yet touching book for less able readers) by Barbara Catchpole and John Boyne’s (author of The Boy In The Striped Pyjamas) The Terrible Thing That Happened To Barnaby Brocket…. imaginative and funny story about a floating boy… did your school register and get their FREE books yet? If not – don’t miss out next year.. did I say they were FREE! Follow the SLS twitter feed – we always remind schools about it!

Mandy: The Boy who Climbed into the Moon by David Almond. This beautifully written novella is enhanced by Polly Dunbar’s irresistible illustrations. It’s perfect for extending the imagination and even philosophy. Paul doesn’t like school – he has been told he has no imagination. One day he wanders off through the block of flats he lives in and meets various neighbours. He climbs to the top of the block, then up a ladder and into the moon, which he thinks is a big hole in the sky. Try this with G&T Y4 , or Y5.

More of our Wednesday reads can be found here.

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Wet weather and what we’re reading this week

Well, we’re not sure how you’re currently fairing in the rest of the country but if where you are is anything like where we are in Norfolk, then you might be currently of the opinion that Autumn is finally here; all this wet weather and pavements lined with lovely brown leaves certainly support this theory!

The changing of the seasons means that the October half term is on the horizon and with that comes another edition of our Bookbites newsletter, which is now avaliable online here. Similarly, the latest edition of our SEN Rights newsletter has also just been published and can be read online here. Make sure you have a read of each- they both contain lots of useful information worth taking in, with Bookbites in particular giving details of our 2015 Conference, which we’re very excited about! More on that soon…!

Back to the here and now; here’s this week’s What we’re reading Wednesday!

Apryl: Flag this post as another edition of ‘what we’re reading wednesday’  in which I enthusiastically champion the Darcy Burdock series by the totally amazing Laura Dockrill. At the end of last week I treated myself to Sorry About Me – the third in the series- and proceeded to spend all weekend engrossed in the latest Darcy adventure. I couldn’t love these books anymore if I tried and I’m pleased to report that book 3 is just as funny as books 1 & 2 and that if you haven’t spent any time with Darcy and her so-very-relatable family then you really really should.

Gail: I have just read Cakes in Space, the latest book by Philip Reeve and Sarah McIntyre- great fun with amusing illustrations. A robot responds to a request to make the ‘ultimate’ cake but these cakes turn out to have minds of their own and want to attack everyone in sight! Lots of alliterative cake names and general silliness! Probably aimed at a slightly younger reader/listener than Oliver and the Seawigs (which I think I preferred) but nevertheless very imaginative and entertaining.

Harriet: Brilliant by Roddy Doyle. A lovely heart warming story set in Dublin (I’ve read several excellent books emanating from Ireland recently: see recent posts on Siobhan Dowd and Sarah Moore Fitzgerald), this is a story about adult depression, and how children respond and come together to defeat ‘the black dog’, which becomes in their eyes a large physical beast that has to be chased and defeated.  The way they do this is by their own natural bubbly happiness, which although threatened from time to time by the ‘dog’ ultimately triumphs.  Plus I always love a map, and the endpapers show the route the children (plus assorted talking animals which join them from time to time) take on their chase through the city.

Mandy: The Canterbury Tales by Geoffrey Chaucer, retold by Sarah Courtauld, Abigail Wheatley and Susannah Davidson. After a visit to Canterbury and having not ‘done’ Canterbury Tales at school, I decided to catch up on these entertaining stories. This version is of course sanitised, but the adult reader can still appreciate the bawdiness and humour of stories which both draw from classic literature and have themselves become classic literature. This edition would make a good introduction to the stories for Y5 and 6.

You can read all of our previous wednesday reads here.

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Wow, what a star!

kill or cureWe at SLS are so impressed- and are as shamelessly proud as if we’d won the award ourselves- for Steve Parker, local author of more than 300 non-fiction books, who has won a most prestigious award: the British Medical Association Board of Science Award for the Public Understanding of Science (phew!) with his book ‘Kill Or Cure’: an Illustrated History of Medicine’. (DK, 9781409332725, £19.99)

It is primarily suitable for high schools, but we know you will have books by Steve in your library as much of his output is aimed at primary age children. Plus, he is a great author to have in your school. He has limited availablity for this term and next, so get in touch with us if you’re interested in having a visit.

Here’s one of his newest titles to look out for, Rainforests (Priddy Bicknell, 9781783410521, £7.99 hardback); bright, colourful, and perfect for KS2!rainforest



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