Year: 2024

Year Two Challenge Miss Cleveland: Africa

This week, Year Two have picked Africa as their Friday Library Theme, with a focus on Kenya as it’s their geography topic.

First off, I’ve chosen, Africa, Amazing Africa: Country By Country by Atinuke, illustrated by Mounni Feddag which is a first, personal introduction to the Africa continent for young children.

With double-pages to introduce the different regions of Africa (South, East, West, Central and North), each country is then represented on one page with a colourful half-page illustration from artist Mouni Feddag, a paragraph of descriptive text and then one to three facts, geared towards readers aged four and up; imagined as a diving-off point, to give a sense of the variety of the continent and inspire young readers to find out more about the different countries of Africa.

Next, I’ve chosen the inspirational story of Nobel Peace Prize winner, Wangari Maathai: The Woman Who Planted Millions Of Trees by Franck Prevot. Wangari Maathai received the Nobel Peace Prize in 2004 for her efforts to lead women to bring peace and democracy to Africa through its reforestation. This is the story of what she did, accompanied by stunning artwork.

As a young girl growing up in Kenya, Wangari was surrounded by trees. But years later when she returns home, she is shocked to see whole forests being cut down, and she knows that soon all the trees will be destroyed. So Wangari decides to do something—and starts by planting nine seedlings in her own backyard. And as they grow, so do her plans…

Finally, I’ve chosen Bringing The Rain To Kapati Plain by Aardema, illustrated by Beatriz Vidal, which is a delightful rhyming story full of bright and vivid illustrations.

In this traditional tale, based upon the folk traditions of the Nandi people of Kenya, a young herd boy Ki-pat must find a way to end the dreadful drought that has come to the beautiful Kapiti Plain and save the animals that live there. The cumulative rhyme is a joy to read aloud and a wonderful way to engage young children.

Happy reading!

Year One Challenge Miss Cleveland: Cities

Tomorrow night, we will be taken on a journey of European cities as the scores are given from the judging panels for the Eurovision Song Contest, so I’m delighted that this week, Year one have chosen stories on the theme of “Cities”. It’s been a really tough job narrowing down the books.

My first choice is Small In The City by Sydney Smith, who is one of my favourite picture book creators.

Being small can be overwhelming in a city. People don’t see you. The loud sounds of the sirens and cyclists can be scary. And the streets are so busy it can make your brain feel like there’s too much stuff in it. But if you know where to find good hiding places, warm dryer vents that blow out hot steam that smells like summer, music to listen to or friends to say hi to, there can be comfort in the city, too.

We follow our little protagonist, who knows all about what its like to be small in the city, as he gives his best advice for surviving there. As we turn the pages, Sydney Smith’s masterful storytelling allows us to glimpse exactly who this advice is for, leading us to a powerful, heart-rending realization…

The Travelling School Mysteries by Jo Clarke are a fantastic series of books where each new term is in a new city, starting with Libby And The Parisian Puzzle, then Edinburgh and in the third book, New York in Libby And The Manhattan Mystery.

In the firs book of the series, mystery-lover Libby is excited but nervous when she’s sent to live with her aunt while her mother is working abroad. Aunt Agatha is the headmistress of an extraordinary travelling school that moves from country to country… Libby joins the school in Paris, where she is just starting to find her feet when Agatha is arrested, accused of a daring jewel robbery! Can Libby and her new best friend Connie find the real thief and save her aunt?

Every trip out immerses you further into the Parisian setting,  brought beautifully to life by Jo’s writing, and Libby’s keen eye for detail. Becka Moor’s illustrations, scattered liberally throughout, capture the joyful nature of the story, and it’s characters and setting perfectly. There is something truly wonderful about a school that changes destination for each term, and you’ll be left craving hot chocolate and macarons

Finally, for our older children, I’ve chosen a story that brings Honk Kong to life; The Black Dragon by Julian Sedgewick.

Danny Woo’s life was turned upside down the night of the fire that took his parents life. Since then, he’s been frozen, trying to adjust to life at Ballstone boarding school. When an explosion rips through the corridors, Aunty Laura suggests Danny goes with her to Hong Kong – the place where his mother was born – and spend some time with Major Zamora, his trusted friend from The Mysterium.

No sooner do they walk through arrivals that Danny realises this might not be as straightforward a trip as he’s been led to believe. First, there’s the man in the white suit; is he following them? Then, while at dinner, armed men kidnap his Aunty. For the first time in over a year, Danny feels himself begin to unfreeze, and tries to unlock the memories of that last fateful week at the circus with his parents. Could the events unfolding around him have any links to that past?

Packed with action and intrigue, Julian Sedgwick has created an action packed thriller that moves at breakneck speed to the mind blowing conclusion. He conjures up complex characters and brings Hong Kong vividly to life, while mixing deadly gangs, magic and mystery with a slight of hand that Danny’s Dad would be proud of. A hypnotising start to a gripping series.

Happy reading – enjoy your travels this week!



Reception Class Challenge Miss Cleveland: Pets

Reception had a big debate about which theme to choose, ranging from Barbie to bodies, but settled on Pets!

For our youngest children, I’ve chosen Books Make Good Pets by John Agard and Momoko Abo

Books make good pets and don’t need going to the vet.
You don’t have to keep them on a lead or throw them a stick.
They’ll wag their words whenever you flick their dog-eared pages.
Even howl an ancient tale for the inward-listening ear.

Did you know that a book can take you anywhere? You only need to turn the pages of a story, and in a moment, you and your book could be crossing the waves in a pirate ship… or diving with mermaids… or even snoozing with a dragon.

Books really DO make good pets! Why don’t you peep inside this one, and take your mind on an adventure?

This delightful original picture book poem is the perfect gift for anyone who delights in the magic of a good book. Agard’s evocative, lyrical style is perfectly complemented with illustrations by Momoko Abe, whose colourful visuals add character, transporting the reader into an enchanting world of imagination.

I’m sneaking in a second picture book as it’s too good not be one of the recommendations on this theme. Seahorses Are Sold Out by Katja Gehrmann and Constanze Spengler is a hilariously wild picture book featuring a single-parent family.

Mika’s father works from home and he’s very busy! He can never find time for the promised swimming trip. So Dad allows Mika to choose a pet from the store while he finishes the project—something quiet like a mouse. And so begins a wonderfully turbulent story in which Mika brings home one animal after another… The mouse gets lost so they need a dog to find it. The dog is followed by a seal, the seal a penguin. One pet for Mika leads to another and another. How many animals can come to stay before a harassed father notices?

For newly confident readers, Luma And The Pet Dragon by Leah Mohammed contains two gorgeously warm and funny stories about a little girl whose wish comes true.

When Luma Dewan wakes up on the morning of her seventh birthday, she knows that today will be special. But she has no idea just how wonderful and extraordinary it will be. For today is the day she will meet Timir – a real talking dragon. Or at least when Luma is around that’s what he is. When anyone else is there, he becomes an ordinary grey puppy with a fluffy tail, who loves chasing squirrels and bouncing on trampolines.

It’s a big secret to keep – and Luma’s clever cousin Arjun is soon suspicious of this peculiar puppy, who doesn’t quite behave like any other dog. Luckily Luma’s grandmother – Nani – is there to help, and to Luma’s surprise, Nani might just know a little dragon magic of her own . . .

And finally, for our older children, I’ve chosen D-Day Dog by Tom Palmer, which is a beautifully told, heart-wrenching story of family, friendship and self-discovery, and a triumph of diversity, inclusivity and the power of knowledge to shape informed, balanced opinions.

Jack loves nothing more than playing video games based on war with his Dad, a member of the Army Reserves. That, and his dog, Finn. And now he’s learning all about the D-Day Landings at school before the Year 6 residential trip to Normandy. Life couldn’t be better.

Then Jack’s parents fall out when his Mum finds Dad’s deployment letter, and everything Jack thought about war is turned on it’s head when he researches a D-Day soldier and his dog, Emile Corteil and Glen.

Is he right to be proud of his Dad? Were soldiers brave or foolish? And what did John Maxwell Edmunds mean when he said, “When you go Home, tell them of us and say, For your Tomorrow, we gave our Today”?

Happy reading!


Friday Library Recommendations: Mythology

I love finding out about myths and legends, so when I read a non-fiction book all about legendary places, I knew that would be a brilliant start for a Friday Library Recommendation theme.

That book is An Atlas Of Legendary Places by Volker Mehnert and Claudia Lieb. A passport to the world’s most intriguing destinations, this book is a bounty of information and gorgeous illustrations that will spark wonder and wanderlust curiosity in young readers.

Filled with the magic of myth, culture, natural beauty, and history, this introduction to eighteen of the world’s most fascinating places introduces young readers to the ineffable qualities that make these locations so special. Stunning double-page spreads offer a deep dive into each site, with fascinating invaluable information and exciting perspectives.

Readers will learn about the unique geology of Thingvellir National Park in Iceland and Namibia’s Brandberg Mountain; the legends behind Germany’s Lorelei rock and Greece’s Delphi; the diverse cultural histories of Timbuktu and Jerusalem; the architectural and natural splendor of Taishan in China and Palenque in Mexico; and even the galactic marvels of the Milky Way. Discovering these places’ unique histories, physical characteristics, and cultural lore will inspire readers to learn more about each place, and encourage their interest in travel, geography, history, and the unexpected.

Now we know all about legendary places, it’s time to meet some of the amazing characters that live in them.  For our younger readers, I’ve chosen a fabulous series by Tom Easton – Hotel Of The Gods, which starts with Beware The Hellhound, where mythical guests cause magical mayhem! A hilarious new series perfect for fans of Pamela Butchart and David Solomons.

When Atlas’s parents get new jobs running a luxurious hotel he can’t believe his luck. It sounds almost too good to be true… It is!

The hotel has very unusual residents – ancient gods and goddesses, forgotten by humans who now worship TikTok celebrities. There’s a water dragon in the swimming pool, an Egyptian cat goddess demanding treats, a Viking god throwing his magical hammer around the garden, and an Aztec god who thinks Atlas is a human sacrifice! When Atlas ventures into the basement, where the Greek god Hades lives, he accidentally unleashes a closet-full of mythical monsters – including a three-headed Hellhound!

Can he get the monsters back into the basement before his parents lose their jobs?

And finally for this week, I’ve chosen the follow up series to the Coventry Inspiration Book Award winning series, Who Let The Gods Out? The Gods Squad are back with a new generation of children thoroughly unprepared to save the world from impending doom and daemons of chaos in Oh Maya Gods by Maz Evans.

The world’s worst-behaved immortals are at it again – introducing the brand-new Gods Squad taking them on! Meet Vesper, the bossy, football-mad daughter of Elliot Hooper, the original hero of Who Let the Gods Out?, and Aster, the super-bright son of Constellation, Virgo.

Together, they must recapture some villainous wrong’uns before the world ends next Wednesday. Off they head to the Maya underworld, where Kizin and his Lords and Ladies of Death are messing with astronomy, chocolate and human sacrifice …

With its irresistible blend of humour, heart, and mythology, Maz once again proves herself to be one of the funniest storytellers in children’s literature today. Book 2, Oh Mummy Mia! has just published too.

Happy reading!



Friday Library Recommendations: Rewilding

Monday 22nd April is Earth Day, which was set up in 1970 to demonstrate support for environmental protection, so this week, I have chosen books on the theme of Rewilding. This is the process of restoring an area of land to it’s natural state, including returning wild plants and animals to the area.

For our younger children, I have picked The Wall And The Wild by Christina Dendy and Katie Rewse.  At a time of accelerating climate change, this is an eye-opening story about gardening, rewilding and embracing biodiversity in all its forms.

In a plot of land at the edge of town, Ana grows only perfectly-sized plants and perfect-looking flowers, and throws all the irregular shoots and uneven seeds over the wall into the disorderly Wild. But as her garden gets tidier, neater and more constrained, the Wild begins to grow…

For older children, I’ve chosen the latest book in the fabulous Explodapedia series: Rewild: Can Nature Heal Our World by Ben Martynoga, illustrated by Moose Allain, which is a celebration of nature and the incredible ways it keeps us alive, and an exploration of how we can welcome the wild on a personal and epic scale.

River-nurturing wolves, tree-toppling beavers, climate warrior whales and even genetically-engineered woolly mammoths could all help us protect, revive and restore our planet to its full glory. Join Ben Martynoga and Moose Allain for an inspiring look at how we can rewild life so that nature – and humankind – flourishes for a long time to come.

And finally, I’ve chosen one of my favourite non-fiction books from last year – Ultrawild: An Audacious Plan To Rewild Every City on Earth by Steve Mushin. It’s not just the title that’s audacious – everything from the brilliantly bold ideas to the chatty, graphic novel style delivery of some, quite frankly, mind-blowing science stakes claim to that description make this an outstanding read. Whether it’s ideas from ancient sewerage systems or futuristic hi-tech pollinators and plants, there are no limits on the creative solutions Steve discusses to bring the wild back to all areas of our planet.

Jump into his brain as he designs habitat-printing robot birds and water-filtering sewer submarines, calculates how far compost cannons can blast seed bombs (over a kilometre), brainstorms biomaterials with scientists and engineers, studies ecosystems and develops a deadly serious plan to transform cities into jungles, rewilding them into carbon-sucking mega-habitats for all species, and as fast as possible.

Through marvelously designed and hilarious engineering ideas, Mushin shares his vision for super-high-tech urban rewilding, covering the science of climate change, futuristic materials and foods, bio reactors, soil, forest ecosystems, mechanical flight, solar thermal power and working out just how fast we could actually turn roads into jungles, absorb carbon and reverse climate change.

Happy reading!