A Warm Welcome For Little Amal

In school this week, we have created Footprints of Welcome that the children would want to present to Little Amal, a 3.5 metre-tall puppet of a young refugee girl, created by the acclaimed Handspring Puppet Company. Representing all displaced children, many separated from their families, Little Amal is walking across Turkey, Greece, Italy, France, Switzerland, Germany, Belgium and the UK, with a finale event in Manchester, England in November 2021. She is travelling a remarkable 8,000km in total, celebrating the power of art and shared humanity wherever she goes, and will be visiting Coventry on Wednesday 27th during half-term.

All of our children have learned more about the experiences Little Amal may have encountered through reading The Day War Came by Nicola Davies, illustrated by Rebecca Cobb, a powerful and necessary picture book about the journey of a child forced to become a refugee when war destroys everything she has ever known.

Imagine if, on an ordinary day, war came. Imagine it turned your town to rubble. Imagine going on a long and difficult journey – all alone. Imagine finding no welcome at the end of it. Then imagine a child who gives you something small but very, very precious…

Here are just some of the messages our children created, showing great empathy towards Little Amal and all displaced children around the world. We are so proud of our children and the way they always demonstrate our school values.

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Music in Year 2

During this half term, in Music, Year 2 have been focusing on the song ‘Hands, Heart and Feet’. We have learnt about the pulse as well as how to improvise both using our voices and musical instruments. We also got the chance to create a composition using the glockenspiel. To end the unit the children had the opportunity to perform our piece of music to year 1. They gave us a big clap!

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Spooky Reads for Halloween

The leaves are falling and an autumnal chill is definitely in the air. This week’s recommendations are great for curling up indoors after a trip to the park (don’t forget to scan the GoParks QR code) and all have a spooky theme ready for Halloween.

For younger children, A World Full Of Spooky Stories by Angela McAllister, illustrated by Madalina Andronic, is a collection of 50 tales to make your spine tingle from all over the world. Whether you fancy a trip into the woods, down by the water, up a mountain or even to a grave yard, these short stories are perfect for snuggling up together for a safe scare! It’s a wonderfully diverse collection of spooky tales linked by their spooky theme, but I loved discovering links between stories from other countries, reminding me how myths and legends develop through time.

For our older children, The Red Gloves And Other Stories by Catherine Fisher, is a deliciously dark collection of tales that mix fear with myth, heart and magic. 

Enthralling, evocative storytelling, makes this spooky collection of nine haunting short stories a must for readers who like their books to send a shiver up their spines.

Each chilling tale is steeped in suspense and had me clinging to my cushion of comfort. Whether supernatural, mythical or unexplainable, Catherine has woven a web of stories to lose yourself in (just not at bedtime for me!). Her descriptions bring each setting to life, I could feel the silky red gloves, the hare’s fur, the silver road beneath my feet, just as much as the characters’ growing unease.

The tales conjured images from Harris Burdick in my mind as I read The Silver Road, and the Ghost In The Rain is reminiscent of the world The Clockwork Crow is set in. The Introduction gives really helpful information as to the origins and ideas behind each story and I will definitely be seeking out the traditional tale that Nettle is based on.  

For non-fiction fans, The World Of The Unknown: All About Ghosts by Christopher Maynard, is an absolute must! Originally published in 1977, this has been reissued for a new generation of ghost-hunters. I read my childhood copy until it fell apart so am delighted to see it back in print.  This book is for anyone who has shivered at shadowy figures in the dark, heard strange sounds in the night, or felt the presence of a mysterious ‘something’ from the unknown. Ghost stories are as old as recorded history and exist all over the world. Many of the different kinds of ghosts that are thought to haunt the Earth and their behaviour are described here. You will meet haunting spirits, screaming skulls, phantom ships, demon dogs, white ladies, gallows ghosts and many more. This book also explains the techniques and equipment of ghost hunting and tells how lots of ‘ghosts’ have been exposed as fakes or explained away as natural events. Also included are some theories that attempt to explain the possible existence of ghosts. With a brand new foreword by BAFTA-winning writer, comedian and actor Reece Shearsmith, otherwise the book remains unchanged from the original.

And finally, the monsters are back this half-term in Coventry so I thought a monstrously good book recommendation was in order to welcome them. The Maker Of Monsters by Lorraine Gregory is a multi-layered, mesmerising dystopian fantasy, and an epic adventure, all packed into a short read, brimming with heart, humour and horrifying monsters. Themes of power and corruption, love and loss, and self-worth and the monster we carry with us run subtly beneath the action packed plot, which make this a fabulous read for empathy. 

Brat has always lived in the isolated castle on the island, taking care of the vicious creatures that his master creates, waiting in terror for the moment when they are ready to be put to use. But then the unthinkable happens. The monsters get out. Now Brat must overcome his fears, and venture into the world he has hidden from his whole life. For the fate of everyone rests on his shoulders alone. . .

You can find out more about the monster trail here: Beware! The Monsters are back | Coventry City Council

Have a spooktacular half-term!

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Read For Empathy – Black History Month

October is Black History Month, and all of this week’s recommendations show the lives of people growing up black in Britain throughout history.

For our younger children, I have chosen Hey You! An empowering celebration of growing up black by Dapo Adeola. This picture book was born out of Adeola’s realisation that, as a child, there were no books he saw that featured black children in a meaningful way. In Hey You! he has created a touching, empowering text that highlights the power of creativity, black heritage, community and family. Featuring illustration from 18 black artists as well as Adeola himself, this beautiful book also serves as a brilliant directory of work from black illustrators, enabling parents to look up their other books, or keep an eye out for their work in the future.

A baby is born to loving parents, and grows up – going to school, making friends. Yet it’s hard for her to find books to read containing girls that look like her. Sometimes, as she grows up, she encounters racism, and life can be very hard. Yet she is reminded that she stands on the shoulders of the great black community that has come before her – and that she has the power to be anything and anyone she wants to be.

The Place For Me: Stories About The Windrush Generation by  K. N. Chimbiri, Kevin George, Salena Godden, Judy Hepburn, Ashley Hickson-Lovence, Kirsty Latoya, Katy Massey, E. L. Norry, Quincy the Comedian, Jermain Jackman. With cover art by Joelle Avelino.

This book presents 12 moving tales of sacrifice and bravery, inspired by first-hand accounts of the Windrush generation.

“Home ain’t jus’ where you live. Home is your heart an’ yer history.”

Each inspiring story helps to bring the real experience of Black British people into focus. Produced in partnership with Black Cultural Archives to honour the Windrush generation, it also includes ten photo-packed fact sections.

Coming To England by Floella Benjamin is available as both a picture book for younger readers and as a novel for independent readers. The 25th Annivesary edition of the novel now has additional historical information, and is beautifully illustrated throughout by Joelle Avelino.

Floella Benjamin was just a young girl when she, her sister and two brothers arrived in England in 1960 to join their parents, whom they had not seen for fifteen months. They had left the island paradise of Trinidad to make a new home in London – part of a whole generation of West Indians who were encouraged to move to Britain and help rebuild the country after the Second World War. Reunited with her mother, Floella was too overwhelmed at first to care about the cold weather and the noise and dirt from the traffic. But, as her new life began, she was shocked and distressed by the rejection she experienced. She soon realized that the only way to survive was to work twice as hard and be twice as good as anyone else. This inspirational story is a powerful reminder of how courage and determination can overcome adversity.

The Voices Series published by Scholastic, for Year 5 and 6, tell amazing diverse stories about everyday people in British History. Here are three that tie in perfectly with Black History Month.

Empire’s End: A Roman Story by Leila Rasheed. As well as being an amazing story, it sparked my curiosity and I went on to research one of the real-life characters in the book. I have studied and helped to teach Romans, and until I read this book, I had absolutely no idea that Britannia had been ruled by a Black African Roman Emperor!

When, Camilla, a young North African girl travels with her mother and father from Leptis Magna to Rome in 207 AD, she believes that she is going to the centre of the world. But just a few months later, the little family is dispatched to the very edge of it: Britannica. Tragedy strikes and, left alone with the Empress while her father travels north, Camilla has to navigate the tricky world of of secrets and danger in this cold place she must now call home. In this heart-stopping adventure based on real historical events, Leila Rasheed shows us a dangerous and intriguing time in Britain that’s sure to fascinate young readers.

Diver’s Daughter: A Tudor Story by Patrice Lawrence brings Eve and her mother, who was stolen from her family in Mozambique as a child, from the Southwark slums of Elizabethan London to England’s southern coast. When they hear from a Mary Rose survivor that one of the African free-divers who was sent to salvage its treasures is alive and well and living in Southampton, mother and daughter agree to try to find him and attempt to dive the wreck of another ship, rumoured to be rich with treasures. But will the pair survive when the man arrives to claim his ‘share’? Will Eve overcome her fear of the water to help rescue her mother?

Windrush Child by Benjamin Zephaniah is a heart-stopping adventure that shows us what it was like to be a child of the Windrush generation. Leonard is shocked when he arrives with his mother in the port of Southampton. His father is a stranger to him, it’s cold and even the Jamaican food doesn’t taste the same as it did back home in Maroon Town. But his parents have brought him here to try to make a better life, so Leonard does his best not to complain, to make new friends, to do well at school – even when people hurt him with their words and with their fists. How can a boy so far from home learn to enjoy his new life when so many things count against him?

Happy reading!


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Celebrating Stories Told In Verse.

So many picture books are written in verse, but stories stop being told that way as we get older. Yesterday was National Poetry Day, so this week’s recommendations are some of my favourite verse novels.

The Truth Pixie by Matt Haig, illustrated by Chris Mould, is a wonderfully uplifting tale of life, loneliness, worries and the power of true friendship and a must read for building empathy in our world, and for understanding that even when being truthful, we can do so with kindness.

When Truth Pixie was small, her Great Aunt Julia cast a spell which means she can only ever tell the truth. And that’s a good thing, right? Wrong! Lonely and miserable, the Truth Fairy has upset her family and friends with her truths to the point she rarely ventures out and does her best to ignore people when she absolutely must leave the safety of her home. When the cupboards are bare and food shopping becomes essential she heads to town. But will she manage to control her truths when faced with a Troll?

As with Reasons To Stay Alive (for adults), Matt Haig takes life’s complexity and drills down to the basics – it isn’t always a wonderful life, and actually, that’s ok. With poignant messages for children struggling with change, friendships and saying goodbye, this is an all year round story perfect for helping children (and adults) accept life’s ups and downs. Chris Mould’s illustrations match the tale perfectly with humour and brevity by turn, making this a truly special little book.

Zombierella by Joseph Coelho, illustrated by Freya Hartas is a gloriously gruesome reimagining of a timeless tale for a new generation. From the moment our librarian enters the hidden section of the library and discovers the books gone bad, we are treated to hideous humour and scares-a-plenty as well known characters take on a new lease of life, or should that be death, in Joseph Coelho’s hauntingly beautiful tale told in verse.

New perspectives and unexpected twists shock and thrill in equal measure as the story unfolds with plenty for scare seekers to revel in. Freya Hartas has captured the eeriness and energy of the characters and settings in her stunning illustrations which compliment the thrilling prose perfectly. As with any classic fairy tale, there is love, loss and hope, but this offers so much more besides. Moral dilemmas offer plenty of food for thought along the way. With an ending that is as enchanting as it is unexpected, Zombierella is a joy to read!

A yellow moon hangs in a satin sky the night Cinderella, barefoot and in hand-me-downs, slips at the top of the stairs … and dies. But not for long. The Shadow of Death arrives to breathe life back into her bones and, for three nights only, Cinderella goes forth as ZOMBIERELLA. With her skin as cold as ice and her faithful horse Lumpkin back by her side, can she seek revenge on her three cruel, fake sisters, once and for all?

Shortlisted for the Royal Society Young People’s Book Prize, In The Key Of Code by Aimee Lucido is an original, inventive and heart-warming novel from an exciting debut author about a lonely new girl and an unlikely friendship formed in a school code club.

When twelve-year-old Emmy’s musical family moves to California so her dad can take a job with the San Francisco Symphony Orchestra, Emmy has never felt more out of tune. But when she ends up in a school computer science club, she finds that she can understand code through a language she is familiar with: music. Slowly, Emmy makes friends with Abigail and the two girls start to discover their voices through the programming language of Java.

Extraordinarily crafted, the verse novel begins to incorporate Java’s syntax and concepts as Emmy, and ultimately the reader, learns to think in code. By the end, Emmy doesn’t feel like a wrong note, but like a musician in the world’s most beautiful symphony. Verse is the perfect form to tell this lyrical story where music and coding are intertwined throughout.

As Sunday is World Mental Health Day, I am sharing a collection of poems that help children to understand their emotions. An Emotional Menagerie: Feelings From A to Z is a wonderful look at a whole range of emotions mixed with creatures from all over our planet.

Emotions are like animals:
No two are quite the same.
Some are quiet; some are fierce;
And all are hard to tame.

Using rich language to describe each of the discussed emotion as an animal, we are encouraged to explore what causes them and how we can manage them successfully, and by building our understanding of emotional vocabulary, we help to manage our mental health now and into the future.

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