News overload (and some Friday Reads)

Just a few things we’d like to draw your attention to before we get to this week’s Friday Reads:

There are just 31 days until the winner of this year’s Carnegie and Kate Greenaway book awards are announced (on Monday 20th June!). We’ve mentioned before how great the CILIP CKG shadowing site is and if you still haven’t visited then we implore you to do so, especially as they have a brilliant selection of Author and Illustration videos in which nominees talk about their work, with a few of them even reading extracts from the books in the running for this year’s prize. To see what we’re talking about and to enter the same CKG video vortex we fell into, visit:

The shortlist for the CLPE Children’s Poetry Award was announced this week (details here) and includes some familiar names including Michael Rosen and Roger McGough. Sarah Crossan’s Once- a CKG shortlistee- is also on the list and our office has been particularly captivated by its poetic depiction of conjoined twins Grace and Tippi.

Also in poetry-related news, the Foyle Young Poet of the Year is currently taking submissions for poems written by young people aged 11-17; the deadline is 31st July and winners will be announced on National Poetry Day in October. For more details visit

The shortlist for the Royal Society Young People’s Book Prize 2016 (here) brings together six of the best science books aimed at under 14s and it’s a real mix of subjects. It’s brilliant to have an award specifically celebrating the work of authors and illustrators who create engaging non-fiction, and particularly one where winner will be decided by young people themselves!

We published the second edition of our DeLights newsletter online this week, which you can read here; in it you’ll find the latest news about our just-for-schools eBook platform including news, reviews and updates about what’s available. If you would like to subscribe to this (or any of our newsletters), why not send us an email?

Finally: don’t forget you can volunteer to support Norfolk Libraries with the delivery of this year’s Summer Reading Challenge, The Big Friendly Read. We wrote about it here last week, but there’s also some more information on the Norfolk Library and Information Service website here. It’s a brilliant opportunity for 13-25 year olds engage with their local community and to encourage children and young people to keep up their reading over the summer.

Below are this week’s Friday Reads!

Apryl: Once Upon an Alphabet by Oliver Jeffers

AlphabetBecause my progress through the Carnegie shortlist has slowed down considerably (I only have myself to blame), I’ve instead turned my attention to the Kate Greenaway shortlist and this, a mammoth collection of 26 stories, one for each letter of the alphabet. I absolutely adore Oliver Jeffers so for me this book is absolute heaven and an excuse to spend time immersing myself in his wonderful illustrations; my favourites include ‘Cup in the Cupboard’, ‘The Lumberjack’s Light’ and ‘The Terrible Typewriter’, but the full A-Z as a whole would make for a great read-aloud.

(HarperCollins, £20 hardback, ISBN 9780007514274)

Gail: All About Politics

politicsWith the EU referendum imminent and democracy and British values on the curriculum, this book (with a foreward by Andrew Marr) should prove useful. It’s attractively presented and has a variety of chapters exploring questions and ideas such as ‘Do we need someone in charge?’ ‘The Right to Vote’ ‘Build your own Government’ and ‘I’ve got the Power!’. Suitable for Year 5-9.

(Dorling Kindersley, £8.99 paperback, ISBN 9780241243633)


Harriet: Usborne Official Astronaut’s Handbook by Louie Stowell, illustrated by Roger Simo

astronautChapter one is headed “So you want to be an astronaut?” Nooo, please, I hate flying in an aeroplane, I don’t even like jumping off a wall, so why would I want to be an astronaut?? But hang on, this little book is so interesting, unsensational and clearly laid out I’m hooked and almost signing up to get up into space with Tim Peake – who has written the foreword. Shortlisted for the SLA’s Information Book Award 2016 (and the Royal Society’s prize mentioned above!), this unpretentious title written in association with the UK Space Agency is full of fascinating information, and is aimed perfectly at KS2 readers.

(Usborne, £6.99 paperback, ISBN 9781409590743, find it here on the NLIS catalogue)

Zoë: Katy Parker and the House that Cried by Margaret Mulligan

katy parkerI really enjoyed this story about Katy and her brother travelling back in time to World War II.

Katy finds herself waking with mysterious injuries and is experiencing repetitive dreams. Her best friend, Lizzie, tries to help her work out what they mean. Meanwhile their class is set a project by the History teacher, about the Home Front and both girls consider ways to complete it. In their town is an abandoned house, said to be haunted, along with an elderly reclusive neighbour who’s called a witch. Patrick, Katy’s younger brother, goads the girls into interviewing the elderly woman as he is sure she will know all about the abandoned house.

Somehow the interviews, Katy’s dreams and mysterious injuries plus the reclusive woman are all tied up with the abandoned house. How do Katy and Patrick discover the connections?

(Black, £5.99 paperback, ISBN 9781472908780)

You can find the rest of our Friday Rad recommendations here.

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Is it too early to talk about the Summer Reading Challenge?

With half term on the horizon, the summer holidays will soon be in sight and that means one thing: the annual Summer Reading Challenge!

The theme for 2016 is Big Friendly Read, a nod to one of the nation’s favourite authors, Roald Dahl, and sees the Reading Agency collaborating with the author’s estate in recognition of the Roald Dahl 100 celebrations, also taking place this year.

Taking place in libraries across the country, the Summer Reading Challenge is a great opportunity not just to encourage and continue reading over the holiday months, but to visit your local branch and see what they have to offer.

Norfolk libraries are looking for volunteers aged 13-25 to assist with the delivery of the SRC over the summer. Volunteering sessions take place during the school holidays between the end of June and beginning of September. They’re asking for a commitment of 2 hours per week, though there may be the chance to do more depending on the types of activities your chosen library is running.

Young volunteers are so vital in supporting the Summer Reading Challenge within libraries and it’s a great opportunity to engage with readers young and old. There’s also the chance to be involved as a Reading Hack volunteer and for information about what this role entails, visit

If you know any young people interested in volunteering in Norfolk libraries this summer, take a look at the poster below, visit your local branch or request an application pack via email.

Libraries Volunteer SRC

We’d also like to draw your attention once more to the Shelf Talk blog– written for young people by young people. There’s lots of library-related info, plus updates from Litcham School who are currently blog hosts.

See below for this week’s Friday Reads!

Apryl: Pass It On by Sophy Henn

Pass It OnI’ve very much enjoyed Sophy Henn’s previous books Pom Pom, and Where Bear?, so I was really pleased when this (her newest) arrived in our office a while ago. It’s a wonderfully vibrant tale of the importance of sharing our happy experiences with others; nothing is too big or too small, and who knows? Maybe paying it forward might bring a little positivity to someone else’s day, too! Her unique illustrative style is brilliant and I even picked up on a sneaky Wes Anderson reference which the film geek in me absolutely loved.

(Puffin, £6.99 paperback, ISBN 9780723299868)

Gail: Look Inside the Stone Age by Abigail Wheatley and Hazel Maskell

Stone AgeFor teachers teaching the Stone Age… Usborne have recently published a new book in their ‘Lift-the-flap’ series. Really useful for bring the Stone Age to life! Sections on Making tools, Keeping warm, Art and beliefs, The first farmers, Metal working, The Iron Age. Simple and clear with extra information under each flap.

(Usborne, £9.99 hardback, ISBN 9781409599050, find it here on the NLIS catalogue)

Harriet: Lies We Tell Ourselves by Robin Talley

LiesHow harrowing! The first chapters of this book were very painful to read because the author describes, minute by minute, the most awful bullying and threats with no hope of help or reprieve, for a group of black teenagers facing their first day in a formerly whites only school. This novel is set in the early days of integration in southern USA; the animosity and almost universal hatred shown by the white teenagers, teachers and parents are shocking and hard to read, but the author at the back of the book discusses her research and the evidence she used to inform the novel. And it is a novel, but we can believe that for many the difficulties described here were all too real. One of the heroines, Sarah, is a courageous, very believable character, though I wasn’t quite so convinced by her white counterpart, Linda, whose opinions appeared to oscillate sometimes from sentence to sentence. This is still a very intense, interesting read, and it is understandably shortlisted for the Carnegie Medal.

(Mira Books, £7.99 paperback, ISBN 9781848452923, find it here on the NLIS catalogue and on our SLS eBook platform)

Zoë: Moon Phases by Charlotte Guillain

Moon This is an interesting book which clearly and simply explains the moon phases and will readily support the curriculum topic of space for LKS2.

The pictures and diagrams support the text using simple labels and fact boxes, aiding the reader’s understanding. It could also be used to support cross-curricular links in literacy, as it is a chronological text. Other features of non-fiction writing include a glossary and sub-headings.

(Raintree, £4.99 paperback, ISBN 9781474717915)

All of our previous Friday Reads can be found here.



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North Norfolk Stories- Class Visits to our SLS Office

You may have seen us mention a few months ago that we had some very special visitors drop into our office: a class of 27 children from a local school, the FIRST full class we’ve ever had come and see us. Since then, we’ve had several similar visits, all as part of the North Norfolk Stories project which you can read more about here.

One of our librarians, Harriet, has written a summary of how we were involved, which you can read below:

Put a class of 30 pupils among a collection of over 90,000 children’s books, let them choose one to borrow for the term, and see them go! This was the first time we had ever had whole classes of children down in our department at County Hall, and we hope it won’t be the last, as after visits from five schools we all agree we had fun and are keen to invite more.

19th Oct 2015 015

This all began with a project from North Norfolk Museums, called North Norfolk Stories, with the aim of encouraging more engagement with local history, and with the option for primary schools in that area to take on either a maritime or railways theme. We at School Library Service teamed up with the Norfolk Record office to offer half a day of activities in each department, as we are on the same site. Five schools came during the time of the project, most KS2 and one KS1 group. Children spent time with the Record Office looking at census returns and original documents, then after lunch came (carefully and avoiding all the building works which were still ongoing) down to our department to do a craft activity with the help of some relevant local history books, and to be let loose – but quietly and with guidance! – among the book stacks.

Our aims were to help in the overall objective of the project with our local studies and history resources, to encourage children to do some simple research by means of skimming and scanning and using Dewey classification if necessary, while enjoying some team work in producing posters, and to browse and select a book which they would really enjoy.

Langham SLS visit

We asked the schools to give us evaluations of their day, and below are a few of the typical comments:


“Can we go there again?”

“It was a brilliant trip plus I got a new Tom Gates book (yay) also it was interesting”

“I’ve had an amazing day. I loved that we got to choose a book to read as well”


“The children were amazed to see so many books, greatly enjoyed the story sessions and choosing books to bring back to school…We’d love to come again”

And for us, it was a great opportunity to work with museums and the Norfolk Record Office, and to see how viable it was to bring children to our department here at County Hall. If you are interested in a visit, get in touch.

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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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