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: http://www.readongeton.org.uk/

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



Marvellous Microbes

tinyBooks about microbes are usually illustrated with amazing photographs of a miniscule world.  This book for younger readers takes a different approach, with simple descriptions of what microbes are and very beautiful illustrations to accompany the text.  Here’s another title which it would be nice to see on the School Library Association Information Book Award list – it’s yummy.


Tiny: the Invisible World of Microbes by Nicola Davies and illustrated by  Emily Sutton (Walker, £11.99, 9781406341041)


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 Newbery 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.

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