A perfectly egg-shaped book for Easter

hatch For those on a diet, this is a yummy substitute for a real chocolate egg..! 

It’s a chunky egg-shaped board book with flaps which invite the reader to guess what type of creature is about to hatch.  Each egg ‘cracks’ open to reveal the answer- will you have guessed correctly?  Fun, non-calorific, and informative – what more could you ask for?

(Hatch written and designed by Katie Cox, Make Believe Ideas Ltd, £4.99, 9781848797901)


‘What am I doing here?’- A guest post from Dee Shulman

As we may have mentioned several times over the last few months, we’ve been coordinating LOTS AND LOTS of Author visits in schools across the county. As part of this work, we appointed an Author in Residence, writer and illustrator Dee Shulman, author of over 50 books including the popular ‘Polly Price’s Diary’ series and the ‘Parallon’ Trilogy. Dee is working with us until July and we asked her if she would mind writing a little something for this blog- thankfully, she agreed! Here’s what she sent us- (thank you Dee!):

When I was invited to be Norfolk School Library Service’s first Author in Residence I was absolutely thrilled. It was only when I started to think about what that title actually meant that I began to feel a teeny bit daunted. Would someone who capers around a stage or classroom playing What If games, affecting stupid voices, and drawing pictures on flipcharts really have the gravitas to pull off that title? Unlikely. So – what am I doing here?

 In fact, “What am I doing here?” is a question I ask myself A LOT… especially when the deadline’s looming and the characters have so derailed my carefully constructed plot that I’m having to frantically reconstruct the ending. It’s scary, but there’s nothing like it for getting the adrenaline going.

And I think it’s that excitement; the unpredictable thrill of a story that I want to share with the children. For many of them, learning to read will have been the beginning of a fabulous adventure: they’ve discovered the key to the door of a whole new world and are all set to start exploring. For others, they may have tentatively turned the lock, but for various reasons can’t move through the door to the other side. I see it as my job to try and encourage as many children as I can to throw open the door and make a dash for it.

So I leap around the room, play my story games, put on stupid voices and draw fast and furiously, and before they know it, we are on the adventure together: passionately debating the best methods to deal with the fire-breathing dragons circling the skies above Sainsburys; exploring ways of coping with the monstrous idea of Arabella Diamonte as your mother; guessing whether the discarded bag thrown across the bench contains the secret code to the universe or simply Jake’s packed lunch. Together we explore the thrill of empathy and the power of narrative.

There may not be a lot of gravitas in the room, but there’s enough imagination floating around to convince me that maybe gravitas isn’t everything!

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A Book Awards round-up and our mid-week Reads!

With the recent bout of sunny weather across our part of the country, it seems as though Spring has (sort-of) sprung and that, the Easter break is finally upon us! To be honest, we’re all a bit baffled as to how we’re into April already- 2014 is certainly whizzing by!

Lots of book award-y goings on have taken place in the last week or so, beginning with the announcement of Booktrust’s first ever Best Book Award shortlist which you can see on their website here. 24 books have been nominated over 5 different categories- they’re an incredibly varied bunch ranging from early years to teen titles. You can vote online, with the winner being announced during Children’s Book Week this summer.

Also announced this week was the winner of the Waterstone’s Children’s Book Prize, now in its 10th year. Coming out on top as overall winner was Katherine Rundell’s Rooftoppers, a book which recently won Best Story at the Blue Peters Book Awards AND is on the shortlist for this year’s Carnegie Medal. There was also success for a favourite here in our office, Nicola O’Bryne’s Open Very Carefully which was crowned Best Picture Book.

crayonsThe winners of Peters Book of the Year 2014 were announced on Friday and we were pleased to see that Drew Daywalt’s The Day the Crayons Quit triumphed in the picture book category- not only is there a universal consensus in our office that it is totally and utterly brilliant, but it also came out on top in the vote we held at our recent Picture Book Party which took part at Cliff Park Infant School (read about it here!).  Winning the fiction category was David Walliams’ Demon Dentist which wasn’t a huge surprise either- the children on our recent Mobile Library visits have been rapidly taking it off our shelves as soon as they see it!

But what about the SLS office you say? Well, we’re in preparation mode for the beginning of the Summer term- unpacking returned projects and assembling (then packing!) new ones to be sent out after Easter. We’re also seeing lots of new books and reading as much as we can, which brings us nicely onto….

What we’re reading Wednesday! 

Apryl: In the last week or so, I’ve decided to tackle the Carnegie and Greenaway shortlists head-on in an attempt to familiarise myself with those nominated titles that I haven’t yet read. I started (and finished!) David Almond’s Mouse Bird Snake Wolf during my lunch break yesterday- I loved the fantastical story and in particular, David McKee’s accompanying illustrations which showed wonderfully the world-building power of the children’s imaginations. I’ve also just started Kevin Brooks’ harrowing The Bunker Diary which manages to be both utterly compelling and deeply unsettling.

Gail: Baddies, Beasties and a Sprinkling of Crumbs! By Tracey Corderoy. A fun read for Y3/4 about scuppering a robbery with attractive drawings to enhance the plot.

Harriet: John Agard & Satoshi Kitamura’s Einstein the Girl Who Hated Maths

Although rather apprehensive about the Maths Cafe Training session with Alison Borthwick at the PDC- maths never having been my strong suit- it turned out to be extremely enjoyable and informative.  Alison is a great advocate for approaching maths in an unthreatening and approachable way – what could do that better than food and picture books?? Here at SLS we enjoy putting together maths project loans and selecting some fun and creative resources, and I’m currently enjoying a recent poetry book by John Agard, illustrated by Satoshi Kitamura (a shame they’re not in colour), called Einstein the Girl Who Hated Maths.  Despite the title it puts across a very positive and entertaining view of the magic of numbers, while educating at the same time:

“TRISKAIDEKAPHOBIA? What does it mean?

It’s when someone’s scared of number 13,

But how can a number be scary?

Don’t ask me, ask the dictionary.”

Kirsten:  Rooftoppers by Katherine Rundell, just a little way in – I like the book and the eccentric characters so far… reminds me a little of Lemony Snicket’s A Series of Unfortunate Events…

Mandy: Because of the upcoming WW1 Centenary events, I have finally settled down to read Michael Morpurgo’s Private Peaceful. An achingly poignant reminder of bravery and innocence that has remained with me after the final page.

Reading anything exciting this week? Let us know in the comments!


What We’re Reading Wednesday!

If you have visited our blog before then you will know that at the end of each week we post a Friday read- usually with a review of exactly why we think the book (or books!) should be brought to your attention. All of these can be found here and I would 100% recommend having a read back through the entries to see what we’ve picked over the last 8(!) months- they are all excellent!

However, we have some news- our friday reads feature is going on holiday for a bit. Just for a little while. Who knows,  it might reappear when you least expect it, when a book is so especially great that we just NEED to tell you about it. All is not lost though! We’re introducing something new- what we’re reading Wednesday!

We like to think that between us our office has a firm finger on the pulse of new books in children’s and young adult publishing and as a result, it was decided that each Wednesday we would write about what we’re all reading, because some members of our team get through books SO quickly that we wanted to share their accomplishments with you. And so, we present to you…

What we’re reading Wednesday, week one!

AprylHi So Much (Darcy Burdock book 2) by Laura Dockrill; Laura is my absolute favourite british writer at the moment- her work is just so wonderful/inspirational/ full of total joy. The first in the Darcy Burdock series was one of my favourite books from last year and it’s looking like I’m going to love the second book EVEN MORE.  I’m also reading Oliver & the Seawigs by Philip Reeve & Sarah McIntyreI spent some time last week looking at the upcoming Summer Reading Challenge and I’m so excited that Sarah McIntyre is in charge of the illustrations this year. Everything looks so fantastic- I wish I could take part!

Caroline: I am currently reading The Childs Elephant by Rachel Campbell-Johnston which is on the shortlist for the Carnegie Medal this year. I also spent some time a few lunchtimes ago looking at two of this year’s Greenaway nominations- This is Not My Hat by Jon Klassen and Lemony Snickett’s The Dark, also featuring Jon’s illustrations.

Gail: I have been concentrating on Whale Boy by Nicola Davies for my Methwold Reading Group. It has lots of moral dilemmas and issues of whale protection and we’re even going to enact the carnival scene by making quick costumes out of newspaper! I’m also about to start Liar and Spy by Rebecca Stead (Carnegie shortlisted!)

Harriet: I’ve just finished Sam Angus’ Soldier Dog, set in the First World War- terribly sad and harrowing, but ultimately with a Happy Ending, thank goodness…A bit like Morpurgo, about a teenager’s love for an animal, complicated by family tensions at home, and how they fare in the battlefields of France

KirstenAll The Truth That’s In Me by Julie Berry – recommended by my colleague Apryl and on the Carnegie shortlist. Even the first few pages convey a deep felt secret love so poetically - I am captivated.

What’re you all reading this week? Why not let us know in the comments!


A conference, a training day, an Author in residence and a Peters party!

The past five days will now be known as ‘the busiest week EVER, or at least the busiest week since the last time we claimed we were having an especially busy time.’

The madness began on Monday when two of team were at a training session coordinated by the Eastern Committee of the Youth Libraries Group (YLG). Entitled ‘Living Legends’, the day took place at the brilliant Cambourne Village College and was a great opportunity to see colleagues from other Local Authorities in our region. The programme was structured around the upcoming Summer Reading Challenge, with Sue Jones from the Reading Agency opening the day with a keynote in which she highlighted how Schools and Libraries can come together to encourage children and young people to build upon their reading throughout the summer and into the Autumn term. One of our own team even presented a workshop on Library Displays, inspired by her own experience of working within Public Libraries and here at the SLS!display

On Tuesday the shortlists for the  2014 CILIP Carnegie Medal and Kate Greenaway Children’s Book Awards were announced and there was much chatter in the office as we saw who’d made the cut. We’ll be reading all of the books and letting you know our thoughts ASAP, as well as getting involved with some schools who’ll also be taking part in the shadowing scheme. If you haven’t seen who made the final list, why not take a look here; it’s an interesting bunch!

On Wednesday, the whole office decamped to a Cliff Park Infant School and hosted a Picture Book Party in honour of Peter’s Book of the Year prize. With the help of local author and illustrator Peter Kavanagh, we played lots of party games inspired by some of the nominated books: an escaped penguin led a mass dance of watery musical statues and the children helped us put together the most disgusting sandwich ever which NOBODY wanted to eat! Picture Book Party 053sandwich

At the end of the party, all 180 children took part in a vote to decide which of the titles they had enjoyed reading the most. The winner was Drew Daywalt and Oliver Jeffers’ ‘The Day the Crayons Quit’ (a favourite in our office too!) which triumphed with 47 votes, followed closely by Helena Hancocks’ ‘Penguin in Peril’ with 44. The children were even given party bags as a reward for being so brilliant!Picture Book Party

Picture Book Party 103Yesterday saw the first school visit from our inaugural Author in residence, Dee Shulman, who we’re working with over the next few months. Along with one of our Librarians, Dee visited a school in Hunstanton and BBC Radio Norfolk came along to talk about how inspiring it can be for children to meet a real Author. In case you didn’t hear it this morning, you can listen again here: http://t.co/rHfDtwDekG(just jump to 17 minutes into the show to hear Dee and Mandy!)

Meanwhile, back in the office it was all hands on deck in preparation for our Developing a Rich Reading and Writing Culture Conference which is taking place AS WE SPEAK, featuring some brilliant speakers including poet Brian Moses, writer Kevin Crossley-Holland and of course the wonderful Dee Shulman! We’re very excited about it as you can tell and will be providing a full account of how things went as soon as we’ve recovered!

(Our friday reads feature is on a momentary hiatus but will return soon!)

World Book Day- PANTS and yo ho ho pirate fun!

As mentioned last week, our Team Librarians were out and about celebrating World Book Day in several of our Norfolk schools. We asked two of them to provide us with a snapshot into their respective days and because we asked so nicely, they delivered- and you can read below!

Mandy writes:

“Happy Work Book Day! Today was a busy, busy day for Norfolk SLS!

We have helped arrange for 2 of our brilliant Author partners to visit schools yesterday and today: Alexander Gordon Smith was at City of Norwich School yesterday, scaring people with zombies, today he is doing the same at Thetford Academy.

Steve Parker, a brilliant Non Fiction author, is inspiring children at Diss Junior school, and our fantastic Librarian, Harriet is weaving the magic of stories at Loddon Junior School.

I had a great time this morning at Stalham Infants School where plenty of parents, grandparents and little brothers and sisters joined the whole pantsschool for a World Book Day assembly to kick start a whole day of book related activities. The books we shared included Giles Andreae’s well loved book “Pants”, which had everyone laughing. Next came Mo Willems great “Don’t Let the Pigeon Drive the Bus”, the children were determined that he wouldn’t, and the adults appreciated the humour in the pictures.

The last story we shared was “When a Monster is Born” by Sean Taylor, when the children decided that the Monster was going to eat the Headteacher – she didn’t seem to mind though!

Finally the Ladybirds enjoyed using finger puppets to tell a Goldilocks story and then went for a horse ride in Clip Clop by Nicola Smee.”

phew!…and of her visit last Friday, Harriet writes:

It was a day late for World Book Day, but it’s never too late to go looking for pirate treasure!  Students at Hall School joined in a pirate song – with actions of course – and found some gorgeous jewellery and portside piratessilver and gold doubloons, thanks to a selection of artefacts from our collection, and Port Side Pirates by Oscar Seaworthy (oh yeah – really?) illustrated by Debbie Harter.   They also enjoyed big red bathblowing bubbles along with Big Red Bath by Julia Jarman & Adrian Reynollds (we were using the story sack put together by Storysack Ltd).

There are some great new board books featuring London, and these along with a Bag Book hello London(www.bagbooks.org) called Lost In London, proved popular with students of all ages.  We had fun making Big Ben ring out the chimes, swiping an Oyster card on what looks like a real pad – but were perhaps a little less enthusiastic about the scented oils sprinkled on the flowers to make my first london taxithem smell!

These are both by Marion Billet, pub. Campbell Books”

World Book Day & Let’s Play!

Did you enjoy World Book Day yesterday? We most certainly did! Our Team Librarians were out and about and were thrilled to see what schools were doing to celebrate books, authors, and reading. We always think that one of the best parts of the day is seeing pupils (and teachers!) dressed as their favourite book characters (BBC newsround has a brilliant gallery here). While we didn’t construct costumes as fantastical as some, one of our Librarians did get into the spirit on a visit this morning…have you seen her hat?


We’ll be posting some detailed recaps of our World Book Day visits next week, but in the mean time we’d recommend spending some time looking through the #worldbookday hashtag on twitter, as it really does give a brilliant insight into what bookish celebrations took place all over the globe yesterday!

Anyway, back to business- this week’s friday read! 

Let's PlayA vibrant new poetry anthology has turned up on the trolley this week, with a lively mix of poems about games and sports from around the world.  It is comforting to a couch potato and hopeless-at-sport person like myself to find poems extolling stationary games like Scrabble and chess as well as the more usual active sports.  There is a brief description of each sport and game mentioned, at the back of the book.  The cheerful illustrations use all manner of materials and devices, but are linked by Shirin Adl’s animated illustration style.

(Let’s Play!: Poems About Sports and Games from Around the World edited by Debjani Chatterjee and Brian D’Arcy & illustrated by Shirin Adl, Frances Lincoln Children’s Books, £12.99 hardback, 9781847803702)

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3,2,1 Take-off!

For this week’s friday read, we’ve picked a book which we think is truly out of this world…literally!

Laika the astronautLaika the Astronaut by author-illustrator Owen Davey is a beautifully retro version of the story of Laika, one of the first animals to be sent into space and the first animal to orbit the earth!  The style suits the era in which it takes place-1957-  particularly with its use of the Stalinist style of art.  The author gives a happy ending to Laika’s story but the back page gives her official biography, plus photo, for those who are new to the dog’s tale.  The colours, bold spaces and positioning of the minimal text all contribute to the mood of each page, to create what we think is an absolutely stunning book.

(Laika the Astronaut by Owen Davey, Templar Publishing, £12.99 hardback, 9781848778788)

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Picture the Poet Project

Picture the Poet is a creative poetry project for KS2 and KS3 children, run by the National Literacy Trust in partnership with the National Portrait Gallery and performance poetry company Apples and Snakes.  A touring exhibition will be based in Norwich between May and July this year, and Norfolk schools are encouraged to sign up by going to the Trust’s website.

As well as an opportunity to see the exhibition, schools will be offered a full day’s CPD training, a visit from a performance poet AND publication of pupils’ work in an anthology. How great is that? If we were a school then we’d LOVE to get involved - it looks as though there is much fun to be had!

For more information about the project including dates, we recommend you take a look at the official website here at http://www.literacytrust.org.uk/picture_the_poet
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Ahoy there! Pirate treasure!

It might be half term but it doesn’t mean that we’re not keeping busy- our friday read pick this week proves that. Another treat from the always brilliant Nosy Crow, Corina Fletcher’s Playbook Pirates has been keeping us occupied and we just HAD to share it with you!

playbook piratesWe all agreed that we would have loved this as a child; not necessarily because it is about pirates- though that helps- but because a miniature world has been created in the form of a 3D treasure map with numerous little parts to play with (and lose, no doubt!).

Firstly it can be read as a pop-up book, then it ingeniously opens out into the map- after that, there is no choice but to get down on the floor and PLAY!..which is what we did in the department, of course! A wonderful multi-faceted reading experience perfect for your little ones (and the older ones too!)

(Playbook Pirates by Corina Fletcher, Nosy Crow, £14.99, 9780857631817)

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