Splendid summer of literally literary festival festivities!

It’s fair to say that this summer our team have been out and about all over the place, but we’ve not just been on our holidays, oh no – we’ve managed to attend and work at some brilliant Literary Festivals too! Kirsten has been the busiest of us all and she’s written a brilliant recap below…

“I am such a happy bunny! Without even having to travel too far I have had a summer full of authors and books in the most lovely festival settings imaginable, and have added to my treasured collection of books signed by authors I love!

Do I have favourites? Of course (you know who you are)! To be fair to all authors and festivals, the top highlights below are in chronological order – with the most recent first… Did you miss them? WOW you missed out! Don’t let it happen again!

Voewood Festival (15-17th August)- In the most magnificent Arts and Crafts house and garden imaginable I had a weekend of wonderful and intimate experiences with authors and their books…

KF and PAPhilip Ardagh simply MUST come back to Norfolk soon! All our children need to be entertained by him and his beatific beard! Also, so lucky to have as Norfolk residents the talented, 2014 Baileys Prize winning and inspiring beyond words Eimear McBride and the most consummate of interviewers – Chris Gribble of the Writers Centre Norwich… thanks to Norwich independent publishers Galley Beggar Press for believing in the book! The delightful children’s books and art works of local illustrator and artist Lucy Loveheart brought EVEN more magical glitter and sparkle to the whole weekend… and I have to mention Jodi Ann Bickley too – http://onemillionlovelyletters.com/ – she is a new talent and if she has her way the whole world will be lifted and comforted by lovely letters. This adorable young woman is one to watch and is looking for volunteers to help her write letters and raise money for the stamp fund! Help if you can!  (picture courtesy of Philip Ardagh himself!)

Latitude (16th-19th July)- Michael Rosen shared Chocolate Cake with a huge audience! Also the verbally virtuosic Luke Wright was hugely entertaining to all age audiences in the Poetry tent… and comedian, political activist and author Mark Thomas is my enduring programme anchor every year he has been at Latitude… “whatever else is on at the same time – I HAVE to see Mark Thomas” … if he is not there next year I will be devastated!

Norwich Children’s Book Festival (2nd July) (and not just because I closed it, which was an honour!) Thanks to all at Norwich School who arranged it and entertained us – Marcus Sedgwick, Paul Dowswell, Cathy Macphail and Simon Mayo! What a treat! it was such a thrill to talk with students from 24 schools about how much they were enjoying the day too! See Apryl’s mention about the day here.

UEA Festival of Literature For Young People (23rd-27th June)- hard to know how to summarise with such a packed programme of wonderful authors working directly with young people… but our Norfolk SLS Author In Residence, Dee Shulman was fantastic (and is still available to book to work in any school in Norfolk!). Also, I was delighted to be of service to the splendidly fabulous Sally Gardner, when dinner, lunch AND a spot of shoe shopping in Norwich was needed! Her CILIP Carnegie Medal winning book Maggot Moon was my ABSOLUTE standout children’s book last year.

The Autumn is looking promising too – with a selection of delightful and accommodating authors who will be at our Norfolk leg of the International Kids Lit Quiz (we take schools from neighbouring authorities too). And a conference in the planning including authors, books, children and lots of engaging workshops… watch this space!”

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Summer Holiday Wednesday Reads

Well, the Summer holidays soon crept up on us quickly- yikes! We’re three weeks in already and though our phones have been quiet, we’ve been catching up with our usual holiday jobs:  selecting books for projects, cataloguing lovely new books, weeding our stock, preparing for the autumn term, and of course, the thing we like to do the most- reading books!

So in the interest of getting back to our lengthy to-do lists, here is What we’re reading Wednesday!

Apryl: I caught up with lots of my ‘grown up’ to-read pile on my recent (honeymoon) adventure to the US, though I did buy several titles from the many brilliant bookshops I visited on my travels, even if my suitcase wasn’t best pleased with how much I tried to pack in it. Many of those I brought back with me were Newbury Medal winning or honored title books (the US equivalent of the Carnegie)- from the 2002 list, I’ve just started Polly Horvath’s Everything on a Waffle about a girl named Primrose whose parents disappear in a typhoon, leaving her to find comfort in a local diner.

Harriet: The Apple Tart of Hope by Sarah Moore Fitzgerald. Aaah!  a story as warm as freshly baked apple tart – which is the point of course.  It is a tale of first love, misunderstandings, and devious and manipulative people who act selfishly out of envy and a need for power.  The theme is dark, opening on the funeral of a 14 year old boy who is thought to have committed suicide – except there is no body.  The scene is described by Meg, who continues to narrate some of the chapters, while for the rest we hear the boy Oscar’s voice.  Slightly reminiscent of Anne Fine’s The Tulip Touch, it will be enjoyed by KS3 readers.

Kirsten: The Grunts in Trouble by Philip Ardagh and A Girl is A Half Formed Thing – by Eimear McBride… reading both at the same time – and hugely enjoyed both their sessions at the Voewood Festival this weekend!

Mandy: Animal Opposites by Petr Horecek caught my eye this week. I love the vibrant colour used by this illustrator. His opposites are unusual: Heavy Hippo, Light Butterfly. His kangaroo positively bounds across the page and the page folds hide the surprise. Use this in your nursery and reception classes. It will be a good Maths Café book for KS1 too!

An archive of our wednesday reads can be found here.

Let’s all read ALOUD!

Summer holidays allow for lovely leisure time to listen to the radio, and this morning’s Fry’s English Delight caught my ear, as the theme was Reading Aloud.   If you didn’t hear it, do listen on BBC iplayer as it was fascinating, nostalgic (though most of us are probably a bit too old to remember Listen With Mother?) and instructive.  The programme featured The Reader Organisation, a charity based in Liverpool which encourages groups of people, including looked after children, to read aloud together, which they have found has benefits one might not expect, of encouraging self esteem, confidence and well-being.

A special anthology has been edited by Angela Macmillan called ‘A Little, Aloud For Children’ which is a collection of timed fiction and poetry.  See http://www.thereader.org.uk

And of course essential listening on a long car journey is Martin Jarvis, master of voices, reading Just William – hilarious.

a little aloud

just william

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Who’s left in the office this wednesday?

There aren’t many of us in the office at the moment, so this fortnight’s reading update is thinner than usual – the others are on the beach catching up with some good books – watch this space!  However, a couple of us are here, so- What we’re reading (this) wednesday:

Kirsten: Phoenix by S.F. Said- Beautifully illustrated (by Dave McKean).  Imaginative Sci-fi tale that weaves strong messages about friendship, integrity, loyalty, love and courage.  Absorbing and uplifting!

Harriet:  go to sleepThe evenings are still light, it’s the holidays and you are wanting a night out – but how will the babysitter cope?  The one in this book has the answer to any troublesome children resisting going to sleep.  It is great fun and has an hilarious twist at the end.

Steve Cole and Bruce Ingman- Go To Sleep Or I Let Loose the Leopard  

I’ve also just finished my first Jonathan Stroud (yes, high time…), and would strongly recommend The Screaming Staircase to year 7s and above.  It’s  packed full of ghosts, as the whole country has become ‘infested’ with them, and because young people are the most aware of their presence, it is often young people who have to deal with and destroy them – or be destroyed themselves in the process.  So this is a very tense and exciting read, but with funny and even farcical moments as well to lighten the mood.  Lockwood & Co. are the young investigators who will no doubt feature in a further ghostly adventure.

Mandy: Wreckers by Julie Hearn.  Not finished yet, but it is an interesting mix of Cornish mystery with Greek and Roman mythology.

For past editions of what we’re reading wednesday, click here.

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A cautionary tale for every child – and teenager

Are you a fan of Tadpole’s Promise?  If so you will love this latest picture book from the same brilliant pair, Jeanne Willis and Tony Ross.  I can really say no more; it would give the game away, but this chicken is at least as foolish as its early relation in Chicken Licken (this title has echoes, does it not!).  Every child should read this, chicken clickingand beware!

Chicken Clicking by Jeanne Willis and Tony Ross, Andersen Press,11.99, 9781783440528


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Books for our shelves and others…

Excuse the punning- today we’re sharing the second in our shelfie series (did you see the first?) and below is the book shelf of one of our SLS Librarians, Harriet. She writes:

Like all the bookshelves in our house it is a totally random mix of old (very old: for instance my mother’s Blackie Annual from the 1920s.  It’s lost its spine binding and I delighted in ripping it up as a toddler, which necessitated lots of bits of now brown and shrunken Sellotape.  But three generations have loved the stories and I would never throw it away) – and new, as some members of the household still buy ‘real’ books.   There are adult novels here, science books, biographies, and a lot of my own childhood books which again I love and can’t bear to get rid of – ever.  This passion for hanging on to childhood favourites has passed down to my daughters, so the house is full of children’s books.  I hope we never have to move house…

Harriet Shelfie



Myth Meets Paleontology

I couldn’t resist telling everyone about this unusual book from National Geographic, which crosses boundaries in a fascinating way – and is perfect for the new curriculum with its focus for primary children on ancient civilisations.

griffin and the dinosaurThis is an intriguing sideways look at the links between fossil remains – scientific facts – and the descriptions of dinosaur-like creatures in many mythologies.  Who would have thought that the fabulous griffin could be linked to the protoceratops?  The profusion of fossils in Asia has convinced Adrienne Mayor and fellow academics that the earliest fossil hunters were the Indians, Greeks and other early civilisations.   Young readers are treated to a serious cutting edge subject in a totally non-patronising way – and I’ve learned lots too.

Aronson, Marc with Adrienne Mayor; illus. Chris Muller   
The Griffin and the Dinosaur
National Geographic 9781426311086 £12.99

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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.

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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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