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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Whoops, we forgot about Wednesday…!

It’s Friday and here we are again having maybe overlooked our mid-week reads…but worry not! As you can see here, we used to be quite good at reviewing books at the end of the week so for the purposes of this post we’ll be conjuring the ghost of entries-past…

Yesterday was National Poetry Day and the theme for 2014 was ‘Remember’. We really enjoyed seeing a wide variety of poems shared across social media (twitter was great for this!) and the Forward Arts Foundation website is also full of great resources for you to use. Eight contemporary children’s poets produced brand new works especially for the day, which you can see and download for free via their website- great for use with Key Stage 1, 2 and 3, we particularly liked ‘Dear Mug’ by Roger Stevens which had us longing for the Autumn.

Another exciting initiative we think is worth discussing is Read On. Get On. a national campaign designed to get all children reading well by the age of 11. Their mission is to ensure by 2025, all our children will start secondary school as confident readers. We can all do something toward this – just ten minutes reading a day with a child makes a huge difference and can help them fall in love with and understand the power of reading.  The National Literacy Trust is a partner in the campaign, and their Director, Jonathan Douglas, has written a blog-piece about it which can be found here. The campaign is also supported by a report commissioned by Save the Children, which can be found here. If you’re interested in learning more, then take a look at the official webpage:

Also this week, we hosted a twilight training session on how to set up and get the most out of a school reading blog and we’d like to thank the always brilliant Jon Biddle for contributing to the workshop- we’re big fans of his blog and the one he uses with his class, and would recommend bookmarking and reading these both, particularly if you’re interested in seeing how well you can integrate social media into any literacy lessons.

So, after all that, here’s what our office have been reading this week in our (belated) What we’re reading Wednesday (even though it’s Friday…)

Apryl: I was over the moon when I discovered that Marcus Sedgwick had written a book in a contemporary setting and I was even happier when I discovered that it was set partially in New York- aka- a city I love dearly! I finished She is Not Invisible in a few days and was really really impressed; Laureth and her brother Benjamin make an unsupervised visit to NYC to look for her Father, a famous author whose prized ideas notebook has been found in suspicious circumstances. I really like the way Laureth’s tale was interwoven with pages from her father’s notes, and it also got me thinking for hours about coincidences, one of the book’s central themes. Definitely worth a read, especially if you enjoy theorising the regular occurence of numbers- you’ll never look at 354 in the same way ever again.

Gail: Slobcat by Paul Geraghty. I love Geraghty’s animal paintings and this picture book caught my eye while I was having lunch today! It’s the story of a supposedly lazy pet cat but the illustrations tell another story; this cat is busy chasing off burglars and rats and rescuing people from tricky situations while the family are blissfully ignorant! Great for getting small children to look really closely at pictures to see that they tell a different story to the narrative of the book!

Harriet: The Ransom of Dond feels like an ancient legend which has grown organically out of the landscape and seas of Ireland.  However it is actually the last story written by the late Siobhan Dowd, and is published as a novella, strewn through with atmospheric two-tone illustrations by Pam Smy.  According to the gods the thirteenth child of a village woman is doomed to die on her thirteenth birthday to guarantee the good fortune of the village.  Does she die, or is there a way to defeat the will of both the gods and the fearful villagers? 

Mandy: Cakes in Space by Philip Reeve and Sarah McIntyre; This winning pair have followed up Oliver and the Seawigs with another great read for your lower KS2. Astra is on her way to the planet Nova Mundi on a one hundred and ninety-nine year journey with her parents and baby brother, who are conveniently asleep for most of the journey. This story has everything: girl-eating monster cakes, robots, aliens and friendly shape shifting spaghetti as well as a good girl main character and great plot.

Our previous Wednesday reads can be found here.

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Wonderful Wednesday Reads!

mobile display sept 14A few weeks into the new term and we’re excited to be back in the swing of things- projects have been sent and our mobile has had its first full week of school visits. Before heading back out across the county, though, it was given a post-summer makeover inside.

If you or your pupils have the chance to pop onboard during a visit this term, make sure you add a note to our current interactive display! We’d love to know your favourite book or even what you’re enjoying at the moment.

With that in mind (a seamless segue indeed!), here is this week’s edition of What we’re reading Wednesday!

Apryl: A friend of mine gave me a copy of Gayle Forman’s If I Stay sometime last year and it had been sitting on my shelf until a recent trip to the cinema where I saw a trailer for the new film adaptation. This caused me to pick it up and finally give it a read; while I wasn’t particularly overwhelmed by it, I did think it was an incredibly interesting concept for a book and I very much liked that it was set in the Pacific North-West of the United States: any book which references my favourite city in North America (Portland, Oregon) earns a few brownie points with me!

Gail: I have just started The Children of the King by Sonya Hartnett and have been immediately drawn in by the rich writing and rounded characters. Set in WW2, it also weaves in a  ghost story from the Plantagenet period. Would be suitable for Y6′s

Harriet: Global Kids, published by Big & Small, is a series of stories written originally in Korean, each set in a different – so far Asian – country, and suitable for upper KS1/lower KS2.  They have all been translated by Joy Cowley, but the original authors and illustrators are all different. They offer an interesting and attractive addition to our books reflecting global dimensions.  Each starts with an illustrated story, usually about customs and incorporating indigenous vocabulary which are explained in  brief notes at the bottom of the page.  Further expanded notes, photographs and a map come after the story.  Countries published so far include Mongolia and Vietnam. Those in the series I’ve enjoyed so far include Where the Winds Meet and Dad’s Favourite Cookie.

Kirsten: I am lucky enough to have had a week in the sun and spent it catching up with recommendations…

I read Goose by Dawn O’Porter as a library E book that I downloaded on my smart phone…  it was so easy to do – why  haven’t I done it before?! Perfect for reading while travelling.. if a bit tear-jerking in parts…it certainly took my mind off lifting off and landing! This sequel is just as full of the mix of light hearted cultural ‘coming of age’ references and tragedy that the first book Paper Aeroplanes has…. the consequences of ill thought out actions are about as bad as they can get…  Although it is Teen / YA there are sexual references meaning it is unlikely to be suitable for younger teens but it’s not erotic or ‘sexy’… more frank and informatively cautionary.

Holiday ‘reading’ also included an E audio book from the library – downloaded to my phone (again – so easy!) The Invention of Hugo Cabret by Brian Selznick is simply delightful – the subtle sound effects in the audio book bring the story of an orphan in 1930s Paris to life as the illustrations do for the book.

I have also nearly finished Gone Girl – I am relishing the whiplash inducing twists and turns of the plot, and looking forward to seeing the film adaptation due out on the 3rd October – not long to wait! I do love a good bit of crime fiction and this is a full on page turner.. depending on the Age Rating of the film this may boost its popularity even more with young people.

Mandy:  Secrets of the Seashore by Carron Brown and Alyssa Nassner; I know that summer is over (boo) but we may get a few more trips to the beach and here is a great book to share with your KS1 children. Each spread is cleverly designed to reveal  creatures hiding in the rock pool, shell or under the sand, but only when you hold the page up to the light or shine a light through the page. The engaging illustrations conceal the creature without looking empty, and the text is very simple but lively.

All past Wednesday read posts can be found here.

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Book Trolley Birthday!

Last year, on 20th August, a wonderful thing happened…our blog was born! They say that time flies when you’re having fun and it’s definitely true- we didn’t realise that a whole year had passed (which is why we’re celebrating this momentous occasion 1 year and 1 month later…)

august 2013

In the last year we have shared with you 74 individual blog posts (this is the 75th!) and we’ve had 1,948 views- perhaps not much to some, but we are SO pleased! It’s lovely to know that out there across the world wide web people are interested in what our team here in Norfolk have to say- from news to reviews, to our thoughts on book awards and other literary events. We’ve also had real success with our sister blog used by one of our school clusters; the Methwold Reading Group have been sharing their work and have really enjoyed the interaction with Authors that the blog has allowed:


Looking ahead to the next 12 months and we have new exciting things planned- in a few weeks time we’re hosting a workshop specifically about blogging in which we hope to use everything we’ve learnt to show schools how great blogging is and how valuable it can be when used in a school setting. There might still be places, so if you’re interested then get in touch!

In the mean time, we’d like to thank every single person who has read what we have to say, anyone who has followed, commented, linked or tweeted about our posts. You are brilliant and we hope you’ll stick around for another year. Also important- we’ve given the blog a little tiny makeover in the last few weeks…had you noticed that the photo at the top of the page had changed? If the answer is no, then definitely take a peek!

Other things we’d like to draw your attention to while we’re in the celebratory mood: the latest editions of our newsletters are now available online (Bookbites here and HighLights here) and you can also find the current list of INSET courses we’re offering for the Autumn term- there’s lots to choose from so why not take a look and book a place?

Here’s to 12 more months, maybe another 70+ posts, and lots of other adventures in between!

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Hello September!

Well, somehow it’s September- the summer holidays are officially over and don’t we know it; we’ve been inundated with project loan requests in the last few days which is a definite sign that teachers are back in and looking toward the new term and the new curriculum. We’ve had the usual mix of interesting topics, but we’ve noticed how the new curriculum has taken hold- we’ve issued more stone age, iron age and bronze age projects than ever!

Though lots of our time recently has been occupied with “new year” work, we have found a little bit time to read a few books, so here is our What we’re reading Wednesday recap…

Apryl:  Much hyped on twitter and in the blogosphere, We Were Liars by E.L. Lockhart was a book I’d been waiting to read for months. I’d missed out on Hot Key Books official readalong (absolutely brilliant idea) but at 9am on a soggy sunday I finally sat down to read it and by 1.30pm I was done! WHAT A READ!! I’d been really worried that it wouldn’t live up to my expectations but I was really impressed- a story full of suspense, intrigue and twists I didn’t see coming, and full characters I immediately fell in love with. Definitely worth a look and definitely worth inclusion on the longlist for the guardian children’s fiction prize, which was announced in July.

Caroline: I recently read Heather Butler’s moving Us Minus Mum, a story of two young brothers dealing with the loss of their Mum. The story was lovely and sensitively deals with a very difficult subject.

Gail: I am reading The Girl Who Soared Over Fairyland and Cut the Moon in Two by Catherynne M Valente. The third in a fairytale fantasy series, and best for capable girl readers! The prose is a delicious feast of unusual vocabulary and long sentences with an old-fashioned feel. I’m enjoying it but it does make the narrative slowgoing and would probably deter some readers.

Harriet: Bone Jack by Sara Crowe- I have just finished, and cried over, this most exciting, atmospheric and haunting novel.  It is the story of the frailty of humans, and how when sometimes the tragedies of life become too much for one person to bear there are terrible repercussions for their families and the people who love them.  A major character of this book is the landscape: the rugged mountains and valleys of Wales, and the ghosts and traditions which are as old as that landscape.  It is a story of broken friendship and grief, yet there is still plenty of humour, and the mundanity of everyday life keeps it from feeling too fey and artificial.  One for lovers of Alan Garner, perhaps, and anyone who enjoys an exciting adventure with an element of the supernatural, but made really compelling because the heroes are likeable young people struggling to understand the fallibilities of relationships and the adults who are supposed to protect them.

Mandy: Oi Frog! by Kes Gray and Jim Field- A certain 3 year old I know very well, and her dad, loved this book! The endpapers alone, covered in delightful frogs, are enough to sell this book to me. It celebrates language and rhyme and will support your reception class and Y1 with phonics while making them giggle – just what DO dogs sit on??

Read anything good lately? Why not let us know! You can also find the archive of our past wednesday reads here.

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Song of Myshelf…

The title of today’s post (thank you Walt Whitman for the pun inspiration!) might alert you to the poetic theme of the post- today we’re sharing our third team shelfie (the first two can be seen here) which comes courtesy of another of our SLS Librarians, Gail. She writes:

We moved to a smaller house a year ago and, unfortunately, our books don’t all fit in. Many of them are still in our attic; we’re having an extension built, partly to have the books around us again! This ‘shelfie’ shows our poetry books which we do need to have at hand as we attend a poetry night once a month. This poetry evening is a lovely chance to share favourite poems around a theme and even try our hand at writing our own.

gail Shelfie



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