Bank holiday book special!

Not one, not two, three or four, but FIVE Friday Read recommendations for you this week, not just because we’ve all been reading lots but because it’s a bank holiday- and what better way to spend a bank holiday than reading books? Especially as the weather is likely to be awful (in Norfolk, at least- we’ve checked several weather reports!) If you spend your extra day with a book, why not let us know in the comments?

Apryl: The Underwater Fancy-Dress Parade by Davina Bell, illustrated by Allison Colpoys

UnderwaterI’m currently trying to juggle catching up with the CKG shortlist with another 700+ page novel but somehow, in amongst all of those long reads, this picture book caught my eye this week. It’s hard to tell what I liked most about it: the striking colour palate (pale and bright blues contrasted with bright peach and shiny silver and greys), the wonderful illustrations or the story itself, about a boy called Alfie struggling with shyness and anxiety (and his bedroom has amazing cowboy wallpaper!)

(Scribe Publications, £6.99 paperback, ISBN 9781925228472)

Gail: Mythological Monsters of Ancient Greece by Sara Fanelli

MythologicalYesterday I shared this book with a KS2 class and they loved it! I hadn’t appreciated how much fun the quirky collage-style illustrations were. Great if you’re studying Ancient Greek Myths. Each page has little snippets of information and there’s even a short quiz at the back.

(Walker Books, £5.99 paperback, ISBN 9781844285600)


Harriet: Quick Quack Quentin by Kes Gray, illustrated by Jim Field

QuackA brilliant read aloud picture book about PHONICS! This is literacy made fun. It’s a simple idea; our hero, having lost the vowel sound in his ‘quack’, goes around trying to find another animal who can give him a spare one, with a lot of verbal fun en route.

(Hodder, £11.99 hardback, ISBN 9781444919561, find it here on the NLIS catalogue)


Mandy: Solomon and Mortimer by Catherine Rayner

SolomonFollowing the adventures of Solomon, he is joined in this sequel by his friend Mortimer and these two naughty young crocodiles are trying all sorts of adventurous things because they are bored. Climbing trees, chasing lizards and flying have all proved far too tricky, so when they catch sight of the biggest hippo wallowing in the river they know he will make a very big splash. Of course he indulges them, and of course they get more than they bargained for. Plenty of suspense, gorgeous use of colour and space and a lovely rhythm to the story make this a great readaloud.

(Macmillan, £11.99 hardback, ISBN 9780230742512)

Zoë: The Case of the Weeping Mermaid by Holly Webb

MaisieThis is the eighth and final installment of the series about Maisie Hitchins and her adventures with Alice, Eddie and George, which I downloaded as an eBook  from the public library using the Overdrive app; very user-friendly. The illustrations are clear on the screen, although small as I read on my phone, with text breaks being indicated clearly by the magnifying glass which also features in the paperbacks.

Alice’s father is a wealthy merchant but lately he has suffered losses, with three of his ships rumoured to have been lost at sea. Mr Lacey decides he and his new wife must sail to China in order to discover what has happened and in the meantime, Maisie receives a beautifully carved Chinese box from Daniel Hitchins, a sailor, which contains his papers. In his letter he explains the box was bought at Peking and she must keep the papers safe and that night, Maisie reads the intriguing documents from her father. Instead of going with her parents, Alice comes to stay with Maisie and during one conversation, Maisie thinks the mystery about Alice’s father’s missing ships sounds very like the notes her father had made. Are the two puzzles linked and if so, can the girls find a solution?

(Stripes, £5.99 paperback, ISBN 9781847155979, find it here on the NLIS catalogue)

Our previous Friday Reads can all be found here.

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Shakespeare Re-Written

Tomorrow, 23rd April, sees the 400th anniversary of the death of the world’s greatest playwright, William Shakespeare. Producing 37 plays and 154 sonnets in his lifetime, the literary influence his work has had is vast, with retellings, reinterpretations and reimagining’s cropping up all the time, often in unexpected places (did you know Disney’s The Lion King is a riff on Hamlet?)

Libraries across Norfolk have been celebrating some of these ‘new’ versions, with Shakespeare Re-written, this year’s Norfolk’s Great Big Read. You can keep track of how the promotion has been going by looking at the official hashtag, #NGBR16

NGBR again

Amelia from Litcham School (our current hosts of the Norfolk Shelf Talk blog) wrote a brilliant blog post about her own experience of the Great Big Read, coming up with a few Shakespeare-influence books suitable for young people. She also put together a Shakespeare quiz for those brave enough to test their knowledge; you can find the pdf over on the Shelf Talk blog and if you’d like the answers, email us!

Related, and in case you missed it, we put together a Bard Themed Thursday in honour of last month’s Shakespeare week, which you can find here.

Below are this week’s Friday Reads!

Apryl: No Normal (Ms Marvel volume 1) written by G. Willow Wilson, art by Adrian Alphona & Jacob Wyatt.

Ms Marvel vol1I’m in the midst of comic and graphic novel revival, after an incredibly long period away from the format- I’d forgotten how great they are to read and this is a prime example. From comic book powerhouse Marvel, No Normal is great for upper KS3 and beyond and brings together the first five issues of the recently rebooted Ms Marvel series. Kamala Kahn is a Muslim-American teenager growing up in Jersey City, who finds herself inheriting superhuman abilities and the Ms Marvel title from one of her idols, Carol Danvers. Even if you are unfamiliar with the history of the previous incarnation of the comic, this series makes for an incredibly enjoyable read and it’s brilliant to see both gender and racial diversity continuing to make its way into the superhero genre.

(Marvel, £11.99 paperback, ISBN 9780785190219)

­Gail:  Pretty Salma by Niki Daly

SalmaAn African Red Riding Hood, I read this book in an infant school assembly yesterday and got 7 children to act it out. Seemed to be enjoyed by all! Really colourful, fun tale with opportunities for audience participation. You just need a few props such as a stripy piece of material to wrap around Salma, a basket and things to buy in the market (such as a melon) and some percussion instruments! Great for discussing the differences between the Red Riding Hood tale they know and this African version.

(Frances Lincoln, £6.99 paperback, ISBN 9781845074982, find it here on the NLIS catalogue)

Harriet:  A Pocket Full of Murder by R.J. Anderson

PocketfullSuitable for good readers at the top of primary school and KS3, this is a multi-layered mystery set in a slightly parallel universe. The characters feel warm and human enough however, and the author sweeps the reader along hoping with the heroine to rescue her wrongly accused father before he is put to death for murder. This is quite a challenging read, involving many twists and turns along the way, along with moral dilemmas such as religious tolerance, equality and justice.

(Orchard Books, £6.99 paperback, ISBN 9781408338933, find it here on the NLIS catalogue)

Zoë: Hamlet by by William Shakespeare, retold by Timothy Knapman

HamletThis is another from the Tales from Shakespeare Retold in modern-day English series by Timothy Knapman; this version of Hamlet brings the story to a new audience with its accessible language, atmospheric illustrations as well as being abridged. As with Shakespeare’s plays, it opens with the cast list – dramatis personae – and a brief explanation of who they are.

To support authenticity, quotes from Shakespeare’s play script are dispersed throughout the story, displayed in scrolls and citing the character who speaks it. Whilst the modern-day English makes the story accessible, the storyline remains challenging, making it suitable for UKS2, in particular boys who are able yet reluctant readers.+

(QED Publishing, £5.99 paperback, ISBN 9781784930011)

Find our previous Friday Reads, here.

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Reading Well

A new initiative was launched this week by the Reading Agency, designed to support the mental health needs of young people across the country.

Reading Well for young people is part of the Reading Well Books on Prescription scheme, which will provide 13 to 18 year olds which information and advice on a broad range of mental health issues including anxiety and depression, as well as other life pressures such as bullying and exams.

The Shelf Help booklists are incredibly varied (see here) and were chosen by young people and health experts to help with difficult feelings and experiences that can affect wellbeing. The books in question will be available in public libraries, including those branches across Norfolk, so look out for those the next time you visit your local library.

Also launching this week- the program for the University of East Anglia’s FLY Festival of Literature for Young People (find it here), running 20th– 24th June 2016.

Now in its third year, the festival is aimed at secondary school students (11– 18 year olds) and aims to inspire young people to read for pleasure, develop a love of books and to discover the power of writing. There are author events, readings and workshops from an array of wonderful speakers including (amongst others!) Children’s Laureate Chris Riddell, the award-winning David Almond, Carnegie 2015 winner Tanya Landman and Lisa Williamson, this year’s Waterstones Children’s Book Prize winner.

There is also an Inspiring Reading Conference for teachers, librarians and educators on the theme of Raiding the Past to Write the Present, featuring authors Celia Rees and Catherine Johnson. We’re already excited and it’s still a few months away! Booking is now open, so we recommend securing your places as soon as possible.

Over on the Norfolk Shelf Talks blog, you’ll see that Litcham School (the current blog hosts) have begun their shadowing of this year’s Carnegie Medal. We mentioned last week that our office have already begun to make their way through those shortlisted books we’ve not yet read, and in this week’s Friday Reads, you’ll see this is progressing onwards…

Harriet:  Hattie Peck: the Journey Home by Emma Levey

Hattie PeckDramatic stylish illustrations make this warm story about fostering special. Hattie Peck (a hen, naturally) loves looking after all sorts of hatchlings. Eventually they grow up and have to make their own way in the world, but they don’t forget their loving foster parent.

(Top That, £6.99 paperback, ISBN 9781784456580)


Mandy: Ghosts of Heaven by Marcus Sedgwick

ghostsThis Young Adult/Adult crossover has been shortlisted for this year’s Carnegie Medal and is a strong contender. The story is in 4 parts and, uniquely, can be read in any order. So I did. The thread running through the stories is that of the spiral in its many forms and the arc is that of human history, from earliest days into the furthest explorations of space. Each story, whether written in prose or free verse, is engaging, readable, thought provoking and sometimes disturbing. But is it a novel…or 4 very good linked short stories?

(Indigo, £7.99 paperback, ISBN 9781780622217, find it here on the NLIS catalogue)

Zoë: Let’s Bake! by Cathryn Dresser

bakeThis is a great recipe book from the 2012 Great British Bake-Off contestant.

The book begins with some handy tips and explanations supported by appropriate photographs. Recipes are then divided between the seasons, with a mix of sweet and savoury. Each one is written with easy-to-follow steps, again supported by photographs of either the steps or finished bake. The recipes vary in difficulty, enabling a range of skills to be developed. We had her version of rice pudding at home and it was delicious!

Cathryn encourages practise as baking gets better each time you do it. Each recipe has a soundbite from her, from sharing why it’s included to how popular a particular bake is in her house. I was intrigued to see the recipe for Friendship Cake and this transported me back to Secondary School (back in the 1980’s!) when these were all the rage. Hopefully, I’ll get time to start one soon…

(Orion, £9.99 paperback, ISBN 9781444010824, find it here on the NLIS catalogue)

You can read our previous friday reads here.

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Volunteering for 500 words 2016

Are you familiar with the 500 Words competition? Established six years ago by Radio 2 presenter and TV personality Chris Evans, the story-writing initiative was designed to get children excited about reading and writing, regardless of their abilities. According to the official website, approximately half a million children have submitted stories to the competition over the last few years which equates to just over 215 million words- wow!

It’s not only 5 to 13 year olds who can get involved- even grown ups are allowed! The initial first round of judging is done by teachers and librarians from the UK, all of whom volunteer their time to read through the entries submitted by keen writers. One of our library assistants was fortunate enough to be selected for this process and Zoë has given us a run-down of her experience, which you can read below:

 500 Words 2016

500 words

I was able to volunteer as a marker for 500 words this year, given I never had the time in my previous life as a Primary Teacher!

Following selection as a ‘Super marker’, having missed out during the first round, I received an email with all the instructions to mark 27 stories in the 10 – 13 category.

Each story had to be given a mark out of ten in five different categories, using the drop-down boxes: ORIGINALITY, PLOT, CHARACTERISATION, LANGUAGE and ENJOYMENT. There were also rules about such things as plagiarism and expletives, as well as disturbing content.

My top four stories would go through to the next round, marked by The Reading Agency and they had to have unique scores. This was easier said than done as, upon reading, there were several of a very high standard.

The stories themselves were very interesting. Some were very enjoyable and of a high standard whereas others were imaginative yet difficult to read because of the lack of grammar, punctuation, sense and meaning. My favourites included one about Shakespeare experiencing time-travel, a skiing mishap, a boy in Myanmar and a ghost mystery.

Certificates were emailed to all the judges, along with:

From the bottom of our hearts here at Radio 2, we want to say a HUGE thank you to everyone who judged for us in the competition this year. All your top stories have gone off to the next round of the competition. We will shortly have the pleasurable job of letting those long-listed know of their success!

Everyone who marks for us will be entered into a random ballot to win a pair of tickets to the live Final at Shakespeare’s Globe on Friday, 27th May.

I look forward to being able to volunteer again next year.


The Great Carnegie Friday Read has begun…!

As the second week of the holidays comes to an end, our project boxes have been collected by the courier and will be making their way into Norfolk schools next week. The phones have been quiet but we’ve been busy, and we hope your pupils are pleased with the books we’ve selected for their use this term!

Though we’re looking toward the next term, this week we did post a report about our involvement in championing the Peters Book of the Year, which you can read here (just in case you missed it!)

Below: this week’s Friday Reads!

Apryl: Fire Colour One by Jenny Valentine

fire colourAs with every year, the recent announcement of the Carnegie shortlists made me spring into action, determined to read all of the titles in the running for the prestigious title. This is the first I’ve picked up and WOW- what a great place to start.

I really liked this; beautifully written and capturing wonderfully the voice of a girl, Iris, whose world is turned upside down when she reconnects with the Father she thought abandoned her. This really felt like a cut above the majority of the YA I encounter and I can understand why it’s an awards contender.

(HarperCollins, £6.99 paperback, ISBN 9780007512362, find it here on the NLIS catalogue or on our eBook platform)

Gail: Three Ninja Pigs by David Bedford, illustrated by Becka Moor

Ninja PigsA high-action fairy tale twist with lots to spot in the pictures. The three pigs are blamed for all the mess the naughty wolf makes but they get their own back in the end! Great for reading aloud.

(Simon & Schuster, £6.99 paperback, ISBN 9781471121913, find it here on the NLIS catalogue)

Friendly reminder: would you like David to visit your school? We can arrange this for you! See here for more details

Harriet: There Will Be Lies by Nick Lake


Like Nick Lake’s earlier superb novel In Darkness, this is on the Carnegie shortlist and is a gripping read. The story, set in Arizona, encompasses Native American mythology, powerful emotional abuse, a road movie theme and deafness, all told through the voice of the lovely, authentic heroine.


(Bloomsbury, £7.99 paperback, ISBN 9781408853832, find it here on the NLIS catalogue)

Mandy: Heartsong by Kevin Crossley-Holland

HeartsongA match made in heaven, Jane Ray’s beautiful illustrations and KCH’s enchanting words! This story is inspired by Vivaldi’s Four Seasons and is the story of an orphan who, nurtured by Vivaldi’s gentle teaching, can only communicate using her music. Because of her music and a barely remembered memory she is eventually able to speak when she is reunited with her mama. Lovely! This short novella would, I suspect, appeal to a thoughtful, musical y5/6 girl.

(Orchard Books, £9.99 hardback, ISBN 9781408336069)

Zoë: Twelfth Night by William Shakespeare, retold by Timothy Knapman

TwelfthThis is from the Tales from Shakespeare Retold in modern-day English series by Timothy Knapman.

This is an enjoyable adaptation of Twelfth Night, especially as it is one of his comedies. Confusion reigns when Viola and Sebastian (identical twins) are parted following a storm in which their ship is wrecked and Viola dresses as a man to protect herself in a strange land.

To support authenticity, quotes from Shakespeare’s play script are dispersed throughout the story, displayed in scrolls and citing the character who speaks it.

(QED Publishing, £5.99 paperback, ISBN 9781784930035, find it here on the NLIS catalogue)

You can find our previous Friday Read entries here.

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Our Peters Book of the Year Parties 2016

Over the past few months, you may have seen us write about our involvement in championing (and subsequently shadowing) the Junior Fiction category of the 2016 Peters Book Award- we definitely mentioned it a few times! The separate page we set up for our groups can still be viewed here , where it’ll remain for the foreseeable future. We recommend you take a look and in particular read the comments where some of our shadowing children shared their own thoughts and opinions on the shortlisted reads.


Our venue for the events- how spoilt were we?


In the two weeks leading up to the official announcement, we held two celebratory events for our shadowing groups at one of our favourite local treasures, Norwich Castle. One of our SLS Librarians, Harriet, has written about the project, which we would like to share with you below:

Our initial aims:

  • To take part in a national book award, which gives children the opportunity to vote for their favourite title from a shortlist of new fiction chosen by librarians.
  • To promote excellent new KS2 fiction by less well known authors
  • To encourage pupils to read critically and to express their opinions, sharing their views with other pupils, both within the school and with other schools, via the SLS blog
  • To raise pupils’ confidence and self-esteem in voting for their favourite books
  • To show how enjoying stories can be fun, with a final celebratory event for participating schools

How it all went:

We were delighted to be chosen as Champions for the Junior Book Award this year. We have been Champions of the Picture Book Award before, but this year we were keen to involve the pupils of our staff KS2 Reading for Pleasure Groups, one based in Fakenham, the other in Norwich. As the fiction award was split into KS2 and Teen for the first time, this seemed an ideal opportunity. We received a set of the shortlisted titles from Peters shortly before Christmas, ordered more for our participating schools to borrow, and encouraged them to get reading, straight away!

We set up a separate page on our blog just for comments and reviews from pupils about what they were reading, and also had a voting page. We were slightly disappointed that only one school used this facility, and felt it could have provoked really interesting exchanges between children, as the ones from this one school were fantastic – we loved reading and responding to their very thoughtful and articulate comments.

As Champions, Peters sent us promotional materials and a free set of the titles, but we had to buy more to supply the participating schools. As it would have been too expensive to buy complete sets for every school, we asked each of the two groups to read half in a few weeks, then swapped them over. This was a shame, but was the only way we could guarantee that each school did at least see all the titles in a relatively short time period. As all the titles were great reads, we hope that schools would feel able to buy their own copies for their libraries.

Before the closing date for votes, we held two parties, as grand finales to the process. We were absolutely delighted that one of the shortlisted titles was Cressida Cowell’s How to Fight a Dragon’s Fury, which has been the subject of a wonderful exhibition at Norwich Castle Museum this term (on tour from Seven Stories in Newcastle). This coincidence meant that the perfect venue for our parties was the Castle Museum itself, and we are very grateful to the staff at the Museum for their kindness in allowing us an art gallery space, and time and assistance in running our events.

These consisted of a morning for the schools in the exhibition, with activities related to Cowell’s book, and after lunch our own party which consisted of an ice-breaker quiz, and a few drama and craft activities on some of the other titles. Finally we held a quick vote to see what came top for that day, and the pupils returned to school with very full goody bags of materials donated by Peters.

It was sad that not all the participating schools (ten) could attend the parties, with a few having to drop out at the last moment. We enjoyed the events very much, and we hope the children had fun too. We totted up all the votes, from the parties and the special page on the blog, and sent them off to Peters at the last possible moment to give everyone optimum time to vote. Again, not as many chose to vote via the blog as we would have liked, but we hope that plenty of children did read the nominated titles.

The results from the two parties were different, but the final favourite from Norfolk was, unsurprisingly perhaps, How to Fight a Dragon’s Fury. Nationally the award went to Jane Elson’s How to Fly With Broken Wings, which in Norfolk came tied fourth. After the announcement from Peters we sent certificates to all our participating schools.

For us in SLS being Champions of this Award was very rewarding, if hard work, as with a fairly tight time schedule everyone had to read and turn around a lot of books. Apart from the nominated titles themselves, which are all excellent, the parties were great fun, and the responses of the children on the blog were a particular highlight. It would be wonderful to expand this aspect of sharing the love of reading, and for children to feel they could be part of a county wide digital book group, which spread the word on which fun, life changing and simply great books everyone should be reading.

The School Library Service is very grateful to everyone who put work into this Award; to the staff of the participating schools, to the Castle Museum Education staff for their support and willing assistance in making the party days a great success, and to Peters whose initiative this is.


Four of the five “wedding cakes” made by our PBOTY Party attendees- aren’t they creative?!


You can read accounts of our previous PBOTY events here (2014) and here (2015). We also recommend reading this wonderful account of this year’s event written by Moorland Primary’s Deer Class, who were one of our shadowing schools.


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Book Award Frenzy Friday

…Hi! Just us again. Two posts in two day seems a bit excessive but we’ve had a busy week and there’s lots we wanted to share.

The Peters Book of the Year award winners were announced this week, with Jane Elson’s How to Fly with Broken Wings winning the junior fiction category, Miss Hazeltine’s Home for Shy and Fearful Cats by Alicia Potter & Birgitta Sif taking the picture book win and Holly Bourne’s Am I Normal Yet? taking the teen prize. As we’ve mentioned before, two of our fiction discussion groups were shadowing the junior fiction category and we held not one but TWO celebratory parties in the picturesque surroundings of Norwich Castle in celebration of the awards. Our special PBOTY2016 page is still up and we would very much recommend taking a look here; our Norfolk SLS winner was Cressida Cowell.

The CKG shortlists for 2016 were announced this week too, and we wrote a little something which you can read here. Our team have already begun reading the books in preparation for our shadowing event, and this year we’re excited that some of them are available in eBook form on our NorfolkSLS platform.

The Waterstones Children’s Book Prize winners were announced last night; we’d really liked the shortlists for these as they featured a few books we felt had been omitted from other award lists of late. David Solomon’s winning My Brother is a Superhero took the overall prize, with Lisa Williamson’s The Art of Being Normal winning for older fiction and a recent favourite in our office, The Bear and the Piano by David Litchfield taking the illustrated book category.

We’ve just posted about our Language is Power conference, and we’ll be at The Space again tomorrow for the TEDxNorwichED for a day of educational-related talks from an amazing range of speakers.

In the mean time, here are a few Friday Reads!

Apryl: The Bolds by Julian Clary, Illustrated by David Roberts

BoldsI finished this at lunchtime today and can declare the Bolds to be my new favourite hyena family surreptitiously living in the Teddington suburbs. Though I predicted the ending about 2/3 of the way through, it didn’t stop my enjoyment of the story and I absolutely loved David Roberts illustrations which matched perfectly Julian Clary’s funny (& ridiculous) tale.

(Anderson Press, £6.99 paperback, ISBN 9781783443055)



Harriet: Time Traveling with a Hamster by Ross Welford

time travelThis is a great read with plenty of drama, pathos and excitement, for upper KS2 readers. How possible is time travel? Ross Welford makes this ever intriguing and appealing theme sound feasible, if not terrifying. We really want the hero to change history, so he can save his dad’s life, but even if he can get back in time and change events, things are rarely that straightforward. And how strange it is to make friends with your dad, when he was only the same age as you? Lots to enjoy, gasp and cry at.

(HarperCollins, £6.99 paperback, ISBN 9780008156312)


Mandy: A Slice of the Moon by Sandi Toksvig

sliceSlim Hannigan’s dad is a storyteller and says that stories are just a ‘slice of the moon’. This happy, funny, lively family are forced to flee their Irish home during the potato famine and life changes forever. Slim is the only one who can keep the family together and bring back her dad, who seems to be lost…

A great story, told with a touch of realism and no sentimentality.


(Doubleday, £9.99 hardback, ISBN 9780857531919)

You can read our previous Friday Reads here.

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Language is Power Conference 2016

Language is PowerOur annual conference took place at The Space in Norwich last week and we’re pleased to report that months of careful planning paid off, as the day was a great success!

IMG_0350Titled ‘Language is Power’, the day began with a rousing keynote from 2015 Carnegie Medal winner Tanya Landman who spoke of empathy, how books make us better people, the power of words and how everyone deserves access to books, education and reading. One of her most poignant statements was “language is power, speaking is power, writing is power“, a point we couldn’t agree with more. At the end of her inspiring speech, there was even time for us all to hear about her pig, Tilly.


This year, the day’s program was geared toward both primary AND secondary stages, meaning we were joined by a wide range of delegates, including KS2, 3 and 4 teachers, TAs and High School Librarians. Our workshops reflected this too, with sessions structured for the differing levels.

IMG_0359One of the first workshops to take place was Creative approaches to teaching grammar, helmed by Martin Illingworth, senior lecturer in English Education at Sheffield Hallam University. Martin acknowledged the difficulty of achieving targets and preparing children for tests, giving delegates a myriad of ways to approach grammar in a fun and interesting way. He even mentioned the benefit of blogging to creatively improve writing, an idea with which we concur!

IMG_0383Also taking place in the morning (and again in the afternoon) was Dr Patrick Ryan’s engaging workshop, All the World’s a Story in which he looked at how to use storytelling as a way to encourage pupils to approach Shakespeare. Delegates were given practical ideas and activities on how to utilise performance within the classroom, and were even encouraged to try out their own storytelling skills in the session.


After a coffee break, we were joined in the main IMG_0362auditorium by Amelia, Maddie and Eleanor from Litcham School. The girls were part of the Norfolk team who won the Kids Lit Quiz UK final in 2014 and then went to the world final which took place in New England last summer. The three of them are now involved in the Reading Agency’s Reading Hack initiative, as they wanted to give something back and inspire others to engage with reading. The girls spoke passionately about their life-changing trip, which along with seeing first-hand their enthusiasm for reading, was wonderful to hear.

Before lunch, we were joined by librarian Cheryl Wood from Norwich School who spoke about her experiences of working with authors, in particular the highs and lows of running author events for her school. The first of Tanya Landman’s workshop also took place, in which delegates wrote murder-mystery stories (all of which were brilliant!)

Lunch was served and delegates networked, took part in our specially prepared quizzes and were even treated to a story session from Tilly the Talespinner.

Before the final breakout sessions of the day, the wonderfully funny Paul Cookson treated us to a poetry workshop, testing the delegates’ creative abilities and proving that anyone can create great performance poetry.


We were incredibly pleased with how the day ran, and were delighted with all the feedback we’ve received since. If you attended- thank you! If you missed out but would like a further insight into how the day went, we’ve made a storify of the day’s tweeting, which you can see here.

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Carnegie & Kate Greenaway Shortlists 2016

PrintThe shortlists for the 2016 Carnegie and Kate Greenaway medals were announced on Tuesday evening and what an interesting bunch they are! One of our librarians, Harriet, shares her thoughts.

There is always a bit of a Frisson of Excitement around the announcement of the shortlist of the Carnegie and Kate Greenaway awards. What will make the grade; will it be the novels we have enjoyed, will it include authors we don’t know, will it – we hope – introduce us to new and wonderful works? Well, the answer is always Yes to all those questions, and this year is no different. The Carnegie shortlist includes well known authors such as Patrick Ness, new authors such as Robin Talley, and all sound intriguing and very varied. With the exception of Kate Saunders’ Five On the Western Front which could be enjoyed by upper KS2 pupils, all are suitable for KS3 and above.

The Kate Greenaway shortlist is just as varied, with ‘veteran’ illustrators such as Helen Oxenbury featured, as well as new illustrators like Sydney Smith who has created a lovely wordless picture book called Footpath Flowers.

So now the Shadowing groups can really get reading, and the national winners will be announced on Monday June 20th.

The CKG shadowing website is great and we recommend you visit to see what young people are saying about the award-worthy books they’re reading. We’ll also be periodically sharing our thoughts of the books as we make our way through them, so make sure you keep an eye on this blog!



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Conference, Castle, Carnegie, Friday Reads!

It’s been a busy week for us here; on Tuesday, our office was visited by THIRTY key stage 1 pupils from Langham Village, all of whom chose books and took part in activities complementing their morning session at the Norfolk Record Office. A brilliant time was had by all- “lots of smiles” according to one of the accompanying teachers!

Thursday was our Language is Power conference (more on that next week!), and this afternoon, we’re once again at Norwich Castle for the second of our Peters book award parties. Looking beyond the weekend, we’ll be keeping track of all the Shakespeare week celebrations (see our theme Thursday list here), PLUS the Carnegie and Kate Greenaway shortlists are announced on Tuesday 15th so there’ll be no rest for us- we’ll be cracking on with reading those books that make the cut, in preparation for our shadowing event in June.

This week’s Friday Reads, below:

Harriet: Bear On a Bike by Hannah Shaw

BearThis is a hilarious story, of extreme simplicity – and silliness – made all the funnier by the bright, cartoony illustrations. Bear has made a delicious birthday cake for his friend Mouse, but he keeps just missing him and has to chase his busy little friend seemingly around the world in every imaginable form of transport (it reminded me of the now very old Milk Tray adverts!) Eventually the cake, still remarkably in one piece, bear and mouse meet and enjoy a jolly party. There is lots of detail in the pictures to discover, as in this author’s previous excellent picture book The Disgusting Sandwich.

(Alison Green Books, £6.99 paperback, ISBN 9781407159652, find it here on the NLIS catalogue)

­Mandy: I, Coriander by Sally Gardner

corianderThis is one of those books I always meant to read but never quite got round to. Heartfelt apologies to Sally Gardner- it is truly one of the best books I’ve read in a long career of reading children’s books. Published in 2005, it won the Nestle Children’s Book Prize and is set in that strange period of Cromwell’s Commonwealth, after the Civil War in London. Amid huge fear of witchcraft, magic and fairies Coriander and her mother have strange gifts, but when her mother dies and is replaced by a very unsavoury stepmother things take a turn for the rather bad. Coriander is a determined and likeable character and the prose is simply beautiful. Perfect for your y6 best readers!

(Orion, £6.99 paperback, ISBN 9781842555040)

Zoë: The Case of the Spilled Ink by Holly Webb

maisy.jpgThis latest instalment in the Maisie Hutchins series continues in the same vein, being an enjoyable read as well as furthering Maisie’s detective skills.

Maisie’s best friend, Alice, has been sent to Boarding School whilst her father and his new bride go on honeymoon.

During one visit with Alice, Maisie hears about the pilfering from the other girls at the school. She decides it’s a mystery she can solve but, before too long, Alice goes missing. There are only two clues to help Maisie: a trail of paw prints through some spilled ink…

(Stripes, £5.99 paperback, ISBN 9781847154651, find it here on the NLIS catalogue)

You can read our previous Friday Read posts here.

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