The CILIP Carnegie and Kate Greenaway Medals 2015

PrintOn Monday morning, we made our way to Long Stratton High School for our annual CKG award celebration. Pupils from two other schools – Litcham School and Wymondham High Academy – joined us for an exciting morning of book discussion, everyone sharing their opinions of the shortlisted titles they had managed to read and what they felt were the most worthy winners. Views and responses were varied and as always it was interesting to see what the groups picked as their winning choices in our (unofficial!) mini-vote in advance of the national announcement that afternoon. Their Carnegie choice was ‘More Than This’ by Patrick Ness and for the Kate Greenaway, they picked Shaun Tan’s ‘Rules of Summer’. Both of these won with a huge majority, 16 and 18 votes respectively, and all of the results from our day can be found below:

Carnegie Medal

  • ‘More Than This’ by Patrick Ness: 16 votes
  • ‘Buffalo Soldier’ by Tanya Landman: 6 votes
  • ‘Apple and Rain’ by Sarah Crossan: 3 votes
  • ‘Cuckoo Song’ by Frances Hardinge: 3 votes
  • ‘The Middle of Nowhere’ by Geraldine McCaughrean: 2 votes
  • ‘The Fastest Boy in the World’ by Elizabeth Laird: 1 vote
  • ‘When Mr Dog Bites’ by Brian Conaghan: 0 votes
  • ‘Tinder’ by Sally Gardner: 0 votes

Kate Greenaway Medal

  • ‘Rules of Summer’ by Shaun Tan: 18 votes
  • ‘Jim’s Lion’ by Russell Hoban, illustrated by Alexis Deacon: 4 votes
  • ‘Dark Satanic Mills’ by Marcus and Julian Sedgwick, illustrated by John Higgins and Marc Olivient: 4 votes
  • ‘The Promise’ by Nicola Davies, illustrated by Laura Carlin: 2 votes
  • ‘Smelly Louie’ by Catherine Rayner: 2 votes
  • ‘Shackleton’s Journey’ by William Grill: 1 vote
  • ‘Tinder’ by Sally Gardner, illustrated by David Roberts: 0 votes
  • ‘Goth Girl and the Ghost of a Mouse’ by Chris Riddell: 0 votes

If you were following the award announcements, you’ll know that the books to actually receive the national prizes this year were Tanya Landman’s powerful ‘Buffalo Soldier’, set during the American Civil War, and William Grill’s ‘Shackleton’s Journey’, a wonderful account of the explorer’s voyage and book that has been well-loved in our office.  The Guardian’s Children’s book site has some great CKG coverage, including a great interview with Tanya Landman and a gallery showcasing William Grill’s award-winning illustrations!

Many of the pupils who attended our event spoke of how much they enjoyed making their way through the shortlisted titles, primarily because they encountered authors they’d not come across before, genres they wouldn’t ordinarily read and even (in the case of ‘Buffalo Soldier’) real-life events they knew very little about. Though several of the books on this year’s lists do embrace very serious themes, it was noted that the titles all seemed “less dark” than last year which many of them saw as a positive thing. Another area of discussion- which seemed particularly interesting given the recent appointment of the amazing Chris Riddell as Children’s Laureate for the next two years- focused on the relationship between text and image and how one can often enhance or be reliant upon the other, for example in Sally Gardner’s ‘Tinder’, David Roberts’ illustrations heightening the unsettling, supernatural feeling of the story. We also discussed the inclusion of a graphic novel (‘Dark Satanic Mills’), a format unfamiliar to many, and compared the use of illustration in this with the use of illustration in the more traditional picture books.

As always we came away feeling really impressed by what we’d heard from the pupils who’d joined us for the morning and their excitement when watching the live-stream of the announcement was great to see! Less controversial than last year but equally as enjoyable, we’re already looking toward 2016’s awards, theorising whether any of the great books we’ve encountered recently are worthy of next year’s prize!

For more shadowing updates, from schools around the country (over 10,000 children participated!), why not take a look at the CILIP CKG Shadowing site here? You can also read a few reviews below, sent to us by pupils at Litcham High!

Tinder by Sally Gardner, review by Katie (Y7)

I guess l’ll begin with my opinion of Tinder; I thought that Tinder is a great book with many brilliant illustrations and the story line was pretty good as well. I didn’t really have a favourite part of the book, but if I did have to choose, it would be about the part where he couldn’t get rid of the Tinderbox. The only let down for me wasn’t that bad to be honest, and that tiny let down was when I found that the end was spoilt slightly. It was predictable although it was still a good book.

I think it did the story of the Tinderbox justice, I mean yes, it wasn’t an original storyline but it was lengthened and illustrated. I enjoyed the way it was written, with all the pictures splitting it up making it an easier read for me. It was captivating and I couldn’t put it down.

The illustrations were Kate Greenaway Award good. They had a cartoonish detail to them. The story didn’t need them, but it strengthened the descriptions of the characters mainly, also adding an atmosphere that’s hard to describe to the book.

I personally think that this is a really good book – definitely in my top 5 books from this year’s Carnegie short list and definitely one of my Greenaway nominees.

I would recommend Tinder to anyone who is into fantasy and rewrites of old stories. Also to anyone who likes a good story with lots of illustrations.

Apple and Rain by Sarah Crossan, review by Kyra (Y7)

I’m reviewing Apple and Rain by Sarah Crossan. This is one of my favourite shortlisted books and the book for me that had the biggest difference in what I thought it would be like at the beginning, and what it was like when I had read it.

When I first saw the cover and read the blurb of the book I thought “Oh great! One of those books that is a soppy, lovey family story, that I really dislike”. But I was wrong, so wrong in the best way possible. It was a family story – but I loved this one!

My favourite part was the way the author used Apple’s poems to break up the story. I like them because they really showed her emotions for being lumped with a younger sister, when she expected quality time with her mum. I can relate to this really well, as I am also often lumped with my younger brother and sister. The poems were written in a beautiful, easy to understand way, making it the perfect way to pause the story for a second.

I also like the fact that all of the characters were lifelike and unique. I also believe, in my opinion, that they weren’t the usual ‘family style book’ characters.

This book has been brilliantly written for the target audience of 11 plus, including lots of descriptive writing and the right balance of narrative and dialogue.

Overall I gave this book huge 93 out of 100. A brilliant read I would recommend it to anyone!

Shackleton’s Journey by William Grill, review by Felix (sent by his sister, Amelia!)

Shackleton’s Journey is one of the best books I have ever read. With beautiful drawings and interesting text, this book portrays the advantages and hardships of Shacklton’s Journey.

Goth Girl by Chris Riddell, review by Esme (sent by her sister, Amelia!)

I really liked Goth Girl because it is so exciting and is telling you about how you should always to be nice to people and always remember that some places are upsetting to people like Lord Goth. It was so fun and I felt like I was in it. I really liked it a lot because I like Ada a lot.

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What to do on Den Day?

Save the Children’s Den Day is running from 29th May- 6th June and during this time, children (and some adults!) are being encouraged to use their imaginations and turn ANYTHING into a den, with sponsorship raising money for children around the globe.

Over on the Guardian’s children’s book site, Julia Eccleshare recently wrote about the best dens in children’s books which sent us into overdrive; what could we come up with? Well, if you’re looking for some den-related inspiration (and the skills required to build them!)- see below!

Den Day

  • Goat and Donkey in the Great Outdoors by Simon Puttock
  • King Jack and the Dragon by Peter Bentley
  • Maisy Goes Camping by Lucy Cousins
  • This is Our House by Michael Rosen
  • Duncan’s Tree House by Amanda Vesey
  • Ultimate Explorer Guide for Kids by Justin Miles
  • The Fact or Fiction Behind Survival Skills by Kay Barnham
  • Stable Structures by Lynn Huggins-Cooper
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News & Reviews

With half-term looming and a spattering of vaguely good weather, we’re creeping ever closer to summer- what a scary thought! There’s still lots going on though; we still have places on some of our INSET courses taking place this term, plus there is now only a month left to read all of the books shortlisted for the 2015 Carnegie Medal and Kate Greenaway Prize.

As a reminder, the shortlist can be found here and we also recommend having a look at the shadowing site on which schools and reading groups across the country have been sharing what they think of the nominated books. We’ll be hosting a special event on the day the winner will be announced (22nd June!) and we look forward to sharing what the pupils discussed at our meeting. You can find a round-up of our 2014 shadowing morning here.

What else? Well, we really enjoyed reading this post about Reading for Pleasure and technology in the classroom by local teacher Jon Biddle. On the topic of social media, we’ll be delivering another INSET course on Blogging and Social Media in the autumn term and Jon will be assisting us- stay tuned for details!

Also on the digital front, Norfolk Library and Information Service have recently launched their e-magazine service. If you have a library card, you can log-in and choose from a plethora of magazines on a range of topics- why not have a browse?

Phew! What about some book reviews? Two of our Librarians have found time to catch up with some recent reads and have provided us with a few reviews this Friday:


BrockThe Brockenspectre by Linda Newbery (£12.99 hardback, Cape, ISBN 9780857551566)

Tomas lives in the mountains with his mum and mountain guide dad. He shares his father’s love and respect for the hills, and when his dad disappears he is compelled to search for him despite his fear of the mythical Brockenspectre, that lies in wait for unwary climbers in the heights. He doesn’t find his father, but instead a grandmother he never knew about. An engaging read for Y4,5 & 6.

jadeThe Jade Boy by Cate Cain (£6.99, Templar Publishing, 9781848772298)

Definitely a creepy read for able Y6 readers this one! An appealing threesome of main characters and a very scary evil villain, as well as a house which comes alive all set at the time of the Great Fire of London. The evil Count Cazalon is desperate to become a God and will stop at nothing. There is witchcraft and racism (–in context) too.


colour thiefThe Colour Thief by Andrew Fusek Peters and Polly Peters, illustrated by Karin Littlewood (£6.99, Wayland, ISBN 9780750280532)

Potentially most useful where a situation is know to have arisen, this is a poignant but ultimately hopeful picture book about depression, and how a whole family is affected by the suffering of an adult.  The pictures vividly reflect the moods described, and may indeed help a young child understand clearer than do mere words.

Street ChildrenStreet Children; Real Stories from Across the World by Anthony Robinson (£12.99 hardback, Frances Lincoln, ISBN 9781847804341)

This is such a sad book of stories about children who live on the streets of Zimbabwe, Mozambique and Guatemala – but the author tells us that children live on the streets all over the world.  All the children are brave and optimistic, despite their struggles and terrible past histories.  The book acknowledges the charities which try to help these children, and provides their websites for schools to follow up.

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KS2 Fiction Discussion in Norwich- Spring Term

It seems like a long time ago now, but just before Easter, our Norwich KS2 Reading 4 Pleasure group met for the second time to discuss the books they’d been given to read and share with their pupils throughout the Spring term. As usual, lots of great book-related chat was had and we were really impressed to hear how the various titles had been received by both adults and children.

FDG Spring

Here Be Monsters by Alan Snow

  • Recently adapted into a film- ‘The Boxtrolls’- but children didn’t seem to make much connection between this and the book.
  • Seemed to go down well with pupils but not our adult-readers!

The Naming of Tishkin Silk by Glenda Millard

  • Enjoyed a great deal by those who read it- very sweet story, though not memorable.
  • Thought the cover lacked a lot of appeal and may have put off some young readers.

 A Word in Your Ear by Tony Ross

  • Boy readers LOVED this!
  • Short story format went down really well- lots of children enjoyed that they could dip in and out, especially as it looked as though they were reading a full novel.
  • Very creepy in places; stories are quite bleak- lots of death.

 Frank Enstein and the Antimatter Motor by Jon Scieszka

  • Described by one pupil as a book for “someone who likes science who wants to read a story.”
  • Everyone liked the way it used complex science language but in accessible way.
  • The way the text is broken up with diagrams worked really well.
  • Perhaps too American?

The Fastest Boy in the World by Elizabeth Laird

  • Generally not much uptake from pupils, though it was really well received by those adults who read it- perhaps the cover was off-putting or unappealing to young readers?
  • A different take on a sports story, one with appeal for both genders.

The Power of Three by H.L. Dennis

  • Well-received by older readers – Y6 very keen.
  • Book rooted in truth (set in Bletchley Park and involves codes and code-breaking!)
  • Lots of potential for follow-up: looking at codes, plus interactive website to accompany the story, as well as groundwork for investigating the real history behind enigma and WW2.

 Journey by Aaron Becker

  • Received the best of all titles discussed this term- by both staff and pupils!
  • Lots of powerful discussion came from the book, and lends itself really well to creative and visual responses. Has real potential for use in the classroom.
  • Discussed how it can be followed-up by the sequel, Quest, which has a similar format to Journey.

Cecilia, a teacher from Bignold Primary (who were hosting us for the afternoon!), had some brilliant results using ‘Journey’ with her Year 4 class and said that the wordless format of the book had given it a universal appeal, especially with EAL students. The title became a real focus point in the week surrounding World Book Day with lessons planned around it, and she also linked it to the children’s exploration into human rights, in particular the way that rights and wrongs are represented in stories. The children were encouraged to look at the pictures and talk through the story which led to great discussion about what it can feel like to not be listened to. They then responded creatively, linking pictures from the book to articles from the UN’s convention on the rights of the child. We were so impressed to see how thoughtfully and enthusiastically Cecilia’s class responded to the book, and it was agreed that it was a perfect example of how a picture book can be used to support wider teaching. It was suggested that Aaron Becker’s sequel, ‘Quest’ would be a perfect follow-up and lend itself to similarly creative and visual responses. You can see some of the class’s work below:

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KS2 FDG 001 As well as feeding back about the books they’d been allocated for the term, the group also engaged in lots of interesting book-award talk (in view of the then recently announced CKG shortlists), praise of this year’s upcoming Summer Reading Challenge theme (record-breakers!), as well as a discussion about Barrington Stoke’s dyslexia friendly titles and their universal appeal to all readers. Overall, it was a great meeting and as always we were pleased to hear the responses to the chosen books. Titles for next term were distributed and the next meeting is scheduled to take place in June- be sure to pop back to hear how they went down!

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Meeting Authors!

It’s been a busy few weeks for us with projects flying in and out of the SLS office. One of our SLS Librarians, Harriet, found time to meet not one but TWO brilliant authors in the 7 days, as she tells us below…

Meeting two fantastic authors in one week – how good is that?!


Long Stratton High School had Marcus Sedgwick in to talk with their Book Club after school, and Janet Bell the librarian was kind enough to invite me along.  The students had between them read an impressive number of his books, with enthusiasm and insight, and I’m sure were inspired to read more after meeting the author.  The book most discussed was The Ghosts of Heaven, which is an amazing read for teens and adults. In four sections which can be read in any order, each story is complete in itself, but loosely linked by a spiral theme.  There is no official ending, of course, and the reader is challenged to make of it what they will. 

On Saturday 18th, I went armed with cake (a sad attempt at creating Cakes In Space – I might have been more successful with Nuts In Space, as surely even I couldn’t go wrong with a few nuts scattered across a chocolate-y traybake?) and braved weekend public transport to Cambridge, to an unconference arranged by our Youth Libraries Group Eastern branch.  The theme of the discussion was Emergent Readers, and included an interesting talk by Prof. Clare Wood about speech rhythm sensitivity in young children and how this affects their literacy,

There was also a very dynamic and funny talk by Dave Cousins, author of teen and primary novels and fiction for Collins Big Cat.  Do take a look at his website ! As well as writing with great humour and warmth, Dave does his own illustrations and wowed his audience with his instant animation tutorial. 

Dave Cousins

We also heard about running Chatterbooks groups, and if you are interested in running a book club in your school, do register for our Chatterbooks training day, 2nd July. – just get in touch.

A list of all the INSET we’re running for the summer term can be found online here, and also published for the new term are our SLS newsletters; Bookbites for Primary and Infant, and High-lights for secondary schools.

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Easter Holidays and overdue book reviews!

It’s the first week of the Easter holidays which means one thing in our office: the packing and unpacking of project boxes! Our team are busy selecting books ready for the new term, on topics ranging from the always popular seaside to the slightly more niche Shang dynasty…!

As a mid-week distraction, we’ve decided to share a bumper post full of reviews of some books our team have read over the past few months (and which we have been waiting to post…!)

Easter Reviews

  • Archie Greene and the Magician’s Secret by D.D. Everest (Faber Publishing, £6.99, 9780571307395)

A wonderful book about mysterious books with magical powers and Special Instructions, where library apprentices must learn skills of Finding, Binding and Minding. A rich imaginative story with clever “librarianish” wordplay which brought a smile to my face! This will go down well with boy or girl fantasy lovers, especially if they are Pupil Librarians! (Mandy)

  • Five Children on the Western Front by Kate Saunders (Faber Publishing, £6.99, 9780571323180)

I loved E Nesbit’s Edwardian adventure and fantasy stories as a child, and gradually became aware of the poignancy of the time in which they were set, as the children in the stories were almost all going to be of an age to be caught up in the Great War, and that golden time of innocent adventure would be gone for ever.  Kate Saunders has taken up this fact and written an excellent sequel to Nesbit’s Five Children and It; it feels totally authentic, and is as devastating as one would expect – and fear.  A good read for today’s Years 6 and 7. (Harriet)

  • We Have Lift Off! by Sean Taylor and Hannah Shaw (Frances Lincoln, 9781847805126, £6.99)

I love Sean Taylor’s imaginative children’s books, and this is no exception.  For Norfolk’s rural children it is perfect! The farm animals are fed up with Mr Tanner’s dump of a farm, (cue: much environmental damage) so they make an intergalactic rocket to escape on, “up to the clear, clean stars”. After a few disastrous test flights Mr Tanner finds the rocket and you might guess what happens next! Brilliant pictures support a great story and may prompt some interesting ‘green’ conversations. (Harriet)

  • The Case of the Deadly Desperados (The PK Pinkerton Mysteries) by Caroline Lawrence (Orion, 9781444003253 £6.99)

This is a good old ‘western’ thriller, with ‘cowboys’ and a few ‘injuns’ as well as some miners in the very Wild West city of Virginia. Caroline Lawrence has done her research well and includes real characters in this fast-moving thriller, Mark Twain (real name Sam Clemens) turns up as a local journalist. The book opens with PK witnessing the scalping and murder of his (or is it her?) foster parents, so perhaps best for Y6 and up. (Harriet)

  • The London Eye Mystery by Siobhan Dowd (Corgi Yearling, 9780552572316, £6.99)

This is a thoroughly enjoyable read with interesting characters and an intriguing puzzle to solve. Ted, the main character, has an unexplained syndrome which causes him to think outside the box and conjour up a huge list of theories to solve the mystery, along with his older sister, Kat. (Zoe)

Read anything good lately? Why not let us know in the comments!

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Our Peters Picture Book Party 2015!

Those of you who have been reading this blog for a while may remember that last year, we held a picture book-themed party to celebrate Peters Book of the Year prize. The afternoon we spent at Cliff Park Infants School was SO much fun that we decided to do it again this year, with a slight venue change; this time, our team headed off to Greyfriars Primary School in King’s Lynn, for another afternoon of activities inspired by the picture books shortlisted for Peters’ prize.

One of our Librarians, Harriet, provided us with a little report about the festivities…

Most of the SLS staff decamped to Greyfriars Primary School on 19th March, for a party to celebrate the shortlisted titles of Peters Picture Book of the Year 2014 Award.  The young participants were also going to be asked to vote for their favourite titles. While there is a serious purpose to the event and the run-up to it, in that children are asked to read, consider and respond critically to a selection of ten very different style picture books, the party itself is all about fun – well, what else could it be, when our manager turns up as a banana (impersonating – or is that im-fruit-ating – the Death Banana Planet from Elys Dolan’s Nuts in Space) ready to hand out refreshments?  Because every party has to have food and drink!

Greyfriars Peters

(Harriet introducing the children to the Death Banana Planet!)

Other activities included a noisy game to accompany the retelling of Rex by Simon James, and dancing to Those Magnificent Sheep in their Flying Machine by Peter Bently and David Roberts. Every party goer left with a ‘magic crayon’ which had inspired a drawing activity based on Aaron Becker’s Quest. 

And there was a special Celebrity Appearance from Magical Meg and Lucy Loveheart, who got the party going, and who then dramatically announced the winning vote – which went to Oi Frog, by  Kes Gray and Jim Field.   

Meg and Lucy(Lucy, Kirsten from SLS, and Meg)

The full voting list from our party:

Title Votes
1st Oi Frog! by Kes Gray, illustrated by Jim Field 51
2nd Nuts in Space by Elys Dolan 35
3rd Rex by Simon James 20
4th Quest by Aaron Becker 16
5th Smellie Louie by Catherine Rayner 13
6th Snow Day by Richard Curtis, illustrated by Rebecca Cobb 11
7th The New Small Person by Lauren Child 10
8th Meet the Parents by Peter Bentley, illustrated by Sarah Ogilvie 7
9th Those Magnificent Sheep in their Flying Machine by Peter Bently, illustrated by David Roberts 3
10th Little Frog’s Tadpole Trouble by Tatyana Feeney 2

Librarian Julie Kirwan immediately sent off all the Greyfriars votes to Peters to be added to the national total.  We were just in time, as voting closed on Friday, and the national results were announced on Monday; winner of the Picture Book Award is Smelly Louie by Catherine Rayner.

Many thanks to all the staff at Greyfriars Primary, to Meg and Lucy Clibbon, SLS staff, and to all the children, who took part so wholeheartedly and with much noisy enthusiasm!

As Harriet correctly points out, the winners of Peters’ Book of the Year were announced yesterday, with Smelly Louie,  A Room Full of Chocolate, and A Song for Ella Grey receiving awards for best picture book, junior fiction and teen fiction.PBOTY15 winnersA press release about the announcement can be found here and if you’re interested in reading about last year’s party then you can do so here!

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World Book Day and a book without pictures…

wbd2015This time last week, we were preoccupied with lots of World Book Day shenanigans, both in school and online, with our office keeping a close eye on social media goings-on. Twitter in particular is a great place for sharing event updates and we loved seeing how people up and down the county were celebrating. If you missed the festivities or just want to see what all the fuss was about, we recommend checking the official World Book Day UK twitter account, or looking at the two hashtags being used on the day: #WBD15 and #WorldBookDay.

Harriet, one of our Librarians, was in a school in Cawston and has given us a little update of how her day went…

Cawston Primary School was all dressed up on World Book Day, like most schools around the country –  this is turning into a springtime version of Hallowe’en! – but here staff and pupils all came as characters from a single book: Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland.  The best I could manage was to go as Alice’s mother, Mrs Liddell, but it was better than nothing, as almost the entire school looked fantastic and had tried really hard.

The school loved Robert Sabuda’s fantastic paper engineering version of Alice, and enjoyed plenty of other weird and wonderful books I’d brought from SLS too.

BJ NovakA new book proved really popular with years 2 and 3: The Book With No Pictures by B.J. Novak (published by Puffin)

If you and your class enjoy Mo Willems’ Pigeon stories, you will love this read-aloud in picture book format, which is exactly as it says on the tin, a book with no pictures.  It’s great fun, and celebrates the power of words to boot.

The Guardian Children’s Book website has a great gallery of World Book Day costumes, which you can see here.

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KS2 Fiction Discussion- Spring Term

Our KS2 Reading for Pleasure group chaired by two of our SLS Librarians (Harriet and Mandy) had their termly meeting in Fakenham last week, and the group’s thoughts on the books  selected for them to read can be found below! Have you read any? Let us know what you think!

Fakenham March

The Boy who Climbed into the Moon by David Almond

The story was enjoyed by both more and less able readers. Very sophisticated in some ways and the group discussed how having a different illustrator would have changed the book as it does look very young!

The Sleeping Army by Francesca Simon

Set in a Museum, the book was widely enjoyed by the group and pupils who liked the characters and found that the cover persuaded boys to read it. It’s also fabulous inspiration for looking at Norse stories (it uses Norse Mythology!)

The Wrong Side of the Galaxy by Jamie Thompson

Considered to be a very ‘boy’ read by was enjoyed by all- one school said even a dyslexic reader became engrossed in it. A space fantasy which lands on a cliff-hanger ending set up perfectly for  a sequel.

The Great Escape by Natalie Haynes

The book was enjoyable and not too complex, good for more able year 6s, though perhaps the cover is aimed at younger readers. The theme itself is quite serious and overall the plot had a few ends that needed tying up.

Blackberry Blue and other Fairy Tales by Jamila Gavin

For older, good readers- perhaps even those in High school. The stories are World influenced; the fairy stories side of the book put many children off, though those who read it enjoyed it very much. Reads aloud very well too.

Foxy Tales by Caryl Hart

Considered to be better for younger children as well as less able, dyslexic readers. One school noted that it had been used as a “first whole book” reader for one child- what a great achievement!

The Fakenham group will be meeting again in the summer term. Feedback from some of our previous meetings can be found here.

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We Cracked It! Our KS2 Conference

After months and months of careful planning, on Monday 2nd March all of our SLS team traveled to the wonderful Green Britain Centre in Swaffham to host our Cracking the Code conference and we’re pleased to report that it was a great success!

SLS Conference March 2015 003

(Above: some of our lovely SLS stock on display for all to see!)

Delegates from across the county came together to take part in a variety of cross-curricular workshops and to listen to what some brilliant Authors had to say.

The day was kicked-off by Andrew Cope, author of the popular Spy Dogs series and ‘Art of Brilliance’ advocate who spoke to our delegates about the importance maintaining a positive approach to teaching, even in the face of stress (and ofsted!). His keynote speech, ‘The Art of Being a Brilliant KS2 Teacher’ was a great way to start the conference and gave us all lots to think about; we certainly came into the office on Tuesday with a spring in our step because none of us had toothache…! Andy later went on to deliver a workshop session entitled ‘The Happiness Advantage’ and then spent the afternoon visiting a nearby school in Swaffham.

Throughout the day, delegates at the conference were given the opportunity to attend three workshops each of which covered a different topic.

Before lunch, Helen Dennis, author of the Secret Breakers series, led a session showcasing 13 real codes and the way in which these could be integrated into school lessons, talking about how she used them herself when working as a Teacher in Sussex. She went down a storm and in the afternoon was whisked away to Neatherd High School in Dereham where she was well received by the students she met. We loved her session and learnt so much, though we’re still baffled by bacon’s bilateral cipher (and probably will be for some time!)

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(above: Helen Dennis showing our delegates how to crack some codes!)

In the afternoon we were joined by author and illustrator Kate Pankhurst who had spent the morning at All Saints Academy working with groups of KS2 children. Entitled ‘DO judge a Book by its Cover’, those who attended Kate’s conference workshop were asked to look at a variety of children’s books and see if they were able to decipher any clues about the book’s plot based on their covers. Using her Mariella Mystery series as an example, Kate then explained how she puts together her own work, often creating and illustrating a character before she’s considered what the story will be! As she did in schools, Kate instructed delegates how they can create their own mystery-solving characters, each of us making a miniature flip-book animation using just some paper and a pencil.

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(Above: delegates hard at work in Kate Pankhurst’s workshop and below, part of the display produced by pupils at the school Kate visited!)


We were also joined throughout the day by Lisa Hewitt from the Museum Service who delivered a hands-on session of archaeology, looking at ways to support the new curriculum’s focus on prehistory and Jacqui Thompson from Pulse CSI who explored how practical science is used in crime scene investigation. We were also given the opportunity to try our hand at Morse Code as our Mobile driver Tony is an expert operative; here he is below teaching one of our Librarians, Gail, how to send a coded message!

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The day was brought to a close with an interview with Carnegie award-winning author, Sally Gardner. Sally had spent the morning at Neatherd High in Dereham and arrived with us at the Green Britain Centre where SLS Manager, Kirsten, asked her about her upbringing, her school experiences and struggle with dyslexia and her success as an author for both young and teen audiences.

Of all her literary characters, Sally explained that she identifies most strongly with Standish Treadwell from Maggot Moon, a book she believed would remain unpublished – it later went on to win the 2013 Carnegie Medal – and she said that she did not consider Standish to be dyslexic until someone later pointed this out to her. Dyslexia became the focus of her conversation with Kirsten, Sally advising teachers to ensure that no pupil gets left behind, that individuals are encouraged to nurture their ability to think outside the box and are allowed to utilize visual aids. She ended her interview with a powerful performance of her poem, ‘Disobey Me’, a line of which is particularly inspirational when considering those dyslexic pupils: “Words are our servants, we are not their slaves, it matters not how we spell them it matters what we say.”

We’d like to thank the Green Britain Centre for the wonderful venue, Jarrold’s for providing us with a brilliant bookshop, our Authors and workshop leaders for delivering such engaging sessions and of course, our delegates for coming along and giving us their feedback. It’s too soon to tell if another conference is on the horizon, but rest assured, we all have our thinking caps on and are coming up with some ideas as we speak…

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