Category: Friday Assembly

The UKLA Outstanding Longlists 2024

Every year, the UK Literacy Association (UKLA) Book Awards, which is the only national children’s book awards to be judged by teachers, produces a longlist of outstanding titles from picture books to non-fiction.

These are a few of my favourites to be longlisted for primary aged children.

Join the brilliantly passionate and instantly loveable Rocket as she organises a peaceful protest to save her local library, in Speak Up! by Nathan Byron and Dapo Adeola.

Bookworm Rocket loves to collect new books on her weekly visit to the library, and to read all about inspirational figures like Rosa Parks. She is heartbroken when she discovers the library will be closing down! Can she use what she’s learnt from Rosa and speak up to save the day?

This empowering, heartwarming picture book is a love letter to libraries and the power of reading. And it shows the incredible power we ALL have when we find our voice and speak up about the things that matter.


More classic storytelling from the acclaimed author of Sky Hawk and Song of the River, as a shy rat is forced to undergo a perilous quest to return a diamond to its rightful owners, in Moonflight by Gill Lewis and illustrated by Pippa Curnick.

Can a timid rat ever become a hero? Tilbury is about to find out on the adventure of a lifetime, journeying across the sea to the realm of the dreaded White Death, to return a priceless diamond to its rightful owners. A marvellous adventure begins and a truly intrepid hero is born within a magical mix of mirth and mystery with enough of a pinch of peril to keep readers hooked to the end.


The blackbirds’ song uplifts and restores in Birdsong by Katya Balen and illustrated by Richard Johnson.

After a devastating car crash, Annie is unable to play her flute and retreats from the music she’s always loved. She exists in a world of angry silence – furious with her mum and furious she can’t seem to play her beloved flute any more.

Then she meets Noah, who shows her the blackbirds’ nest hidden in the scrubland near their flats. As their friendship grows, the blackbirds’ glorious song reignites Annie’s passion for music. But when tragedy strikes again, will her fragile progress be put at risk?

And finally, from the non-fiction section, Unspoken by Kwame Alexander and Dare Coulter, is a must-read for all children and adults alike from Year 5 up, and the perfect companion to Kwame Alexander’s award-winning picture book The Undefeated.

How do you tell a story that starts in Africa and ends in horror? About strength and pride and refusing to be broken? One that still hurts and still loves?

A powerfully moving, poetic exploration of the story of slavery: from Africa to the tall ships, from back-breaking work in a strange land to resilience and eventual emancipation, Kwame Alexander tells the story that’s hard to hear. Told through the lens of a teacher speaking to their young pupils, and in multiple art styles from award-winning artist and sculptor Dare Coulter, the story of slavery becomes one that you can tell with the bravery to lift your voice. Visually stunning, this is a book that will stay with you for a long time.

The full longlists, including books for secondary school children, can be found on the UKLA website.

Happy reading!

If you love Roald Dahl…

Welcome back to the first Friday Library Recommendations of the school year! Congratulations to everyone who completed the Summer Reading Challenge.  On Wednesday, it was Roald Dahl Day, so this week, I have picked books that have the same dark humour and dastardly villains.

Firstly, I have The Terribly Friendly Fox by Susannah Lloyd and Ellie Snowdon. 

When Gerald the fox turns up at the Annual Woodland Creatures’ Ball, a few of the guests are a little concerned. After all, they’ve heard some rather alarming rumours about foxes and their appetites. But they needn’t have worried – Gerald is a vegetarian fox, and the life and soul of the party! In fact, he’s terribly friendly.

A darkly funny story, with artwork from the creator of Great Bunny Bakes, Ellie Snowdon.

Next, for newly confident readers, PESTS by Emer Stamp is the first is a fabulously funny series. When the lights go off, the PESTS come out! Meet Stix, the tiny but heroic mouse who might be living behind your washing machine. But is he naughty enough to join the PESTS?

Stix is the size of an egg cup, can jump the width of a dog’s bottom, and LOVES cheese. That’s because Stix is a mouse. He probably lives behind your washing machine, but you wouldn’t know it, because his grandma taught him to always stay out of trouble and never let the humans know he’s there. But now Stix has stumbled across P.E.S.T.S. – the Peewit Educatorium for Seriously Terrible Scoundrels – in the basement of his building, and along with a whole host of new pesty friends (and enemies), he’s about to rip up Grandma’s rule book and make a real pest of himself…

For Year 3 and up, I’ve picked The Magic Place by Chris Wormell, a thrilling, moving and funny adventure about looking for the most magical place of all – home.

From her cellar bedroom, Clementine dreams of a magic place. And she’s determined to find it one day. But first she must escape from her wicked aunt and uncle and from the Great Black City. With the help of her best friend, Gilbert, a very clever cat, she sets off on an epic journey that just might make her dreams come true.

And finally, one of my favourite children’s series, Beetle Boy by M.G. Leonard. 

Darkus can’t believe his eyes when a huge insect drops out of the trouser leg of his horrible new neighbour. It’s a giant beetle – and it seems to want to communicate. But how can a boy be friends with a beetle? And what does a beetle have to do with the disappearance of his dad and the arrival of Lucretia Cutter, with her taste for creepy jewellery?

Full of charm and quirkiness, with characters to both love and loathe, M.G. Leonard creates a tale of mystery, adventure and beetles with a side order of slapstick that just cries out for one more chapter, which is how I finished it in a day!

Happy reading!

Reception Challenge Miss Cleveland: Food!

It’s the final theme challenge of the year, and Reception have chosen food. Grab your (healthy) snacks and get ready to read some delicious books!

Food Fight by Alex Latimer is a laugh-out-loud picture book about conflict resolution as we join Grape and Mushroom on their mission for peas on Earth.

The Fruits and the Vegetables have been fighting FOREVER! But best friends Grape and Mushroom decide it’s time for things to change. They meet in secret and hatch a plan to end the fighting once and for all. And so, they set off on an epic journey to the very top of the fridge to ask the legendary Wise Old Cheese for help-that is, if he even exists. Join these tiny peace envoys on their courageous mission as they eventually find the solution in an unexpected place…

Highly illustrated throughout, Bad Food: Game Of Scones by Eric Luper and Doodle Boy is a laugh out loud epic tale of a fight for power as the heat rises in Belching Walrus Elementary.

Somewhere deep within the walk-in pantry at Belching Walrus Elementary lives an array of different foods that live in harmony. There are baskets of fruits and veggiesa cooler filled with chocolate milks and apple juices, and a freezer for ice-creams and yet-to-be-nuked chicken fingers.

One day, the Supplies from the Principal’s office show up and insist on sharing the coolness of the cooler. Their ruler is a ruler (pun intended) named Baron von Lineal. The Baron argues that they work harder than anyone in Belching Walrus Elementary while food just sits around. As such, the residents of the pantry have no choice but to open their doors. Anyhow, there’s plenty of room in the cooler for everyone, right? Wrong! The Baron and his cohorts take over the pantry in no time!

To free their fellow food, it’s up to three young heroes SliceScoop and Totz to venture out of the pantry and foil the Baron’s plan for good.

There is a special kind of everyday magic in Bridget Vanderpuff and The Baked Escape by Martin Stewart. Love and hope triumph over misery in this riotously funny, laugh-out-loud, hug of a book.

Bridget Baxter is the very last orphan at the Orphanage for Errant Childs, left at the mercy of the awful Miss Acrid and her foul-smelling fish sandwiches. Miss Acrid’s mission is to make Bridget’s life a misery. But Bridget is more than a match for her.

When kindly Mr Vanderpuff arrives at the Orphanage in search of a child to care for, Bridget thinks her luck has finally turned. Mr Vanderpuff is the village baker, and his shop is a world of wonders. But they soon discover that Bridget is absolutely terrible at baking. When Miss Acrid returns for the ultimate revenge, Bridget must open the Locked and Secret Door, navigate Miss Acrid’s spiderweb of booby traps and use her unique baking skills to save herself – and Mr Vanderpuff – from certain disaster.

Join Bridget as she dons her chef whites and gets the kwassongs at the ready… Baking isn’t such a piece of cake.

Midnight Feasts: Tasty Poems chosen by A.F. Harrold, and illustrated by Katy Riddell will have the poetry and food fans in your life licking their lips as this scrumptious illustrated hardback contains over 50 poems about every type of food imaginable!

Food is the one thing that unites us all – across time, nations and peoples. From chocolate, rice pudding and sandwiches to breakfast in bed, marmalade in the bath and the fruit of a mythical jelabi tree, in Midnight Feasts A.F. Harrold brings together a wonderful and diverse collection of poems to tickle your taste buds.

Poets include Ian McMillan, Brian Patten, Choman Hardi, Imtiaz Dharker, William Carlos Williams, Salena Godden, Joseph Coelho, Sabrina Mahfouz, Lewis Carroll, W.S. Gilbert and A.E. Housman, as well as A.F. Harrold himself.

Happy reading!

The Reading Agency Summer Reading Challenge

The Summer Reading Challenge, presented by The Reading Agency and funded by Arts Council England, is the UK’s biggest reading for pleasure programme for primary school aged children. Each year the Challenge motivates children to read for pleasure over the summer holidays. Children can sign up for free at a participating library or take part online on the official Summer Reading Challenge website!

From Saturday 8 July children aged 4 – 11 can come and collect their Summer Reading Challenge free fun collector pack, stickers and goodies at a Coventry Library.  At two further visits to libraries through the summer children can collect more stickers to complete their Challenge.  Children don’t need to be big readers to enter the Challenge.

This year, The Reading Agency is partnering with national children’s charity the Youth Sport Trust for Ready, Set, Read!, a sports and games themed Challenge that aims to keep children’s minds and bodies active over the summer break. Find out more here.

I have chosen some of my favourites from this year’s collection.

You’re So Amazing by James & Lucy Catchpole and Karen George is a groundbreaking picture book exploring how we respond to disability.

When people meet Joe, they often treat him as Amazing Joe or Poor Joe. But can’t he just be … Joe?

One-legged Joe is ‘amazing’. He knows this because wherever he goes people always tell him he’s amazing. Amazing for sliding down the slide, for kicking a ball … even walking to get an ice cream, or even just eating an ice cream. Of course, being Amazing Joe is better than being Poor Joe…

Call The Puffins by Cath Howe is a wonderfully warm, witty book to kick off this gorgeous series for younger readers, whether reading at bedtime with a grown up or as an early independent chapter book. Teamwork, resilience and playing to your strengths are all key themes as Muffin gets to grips with life in the colony.

Welcome to the island of Egg where a group of young puffins are training to join a search and rescue team. Meet Muffin who is following in her dad’s footsteps and anxious not to let him down. Meet Tiny whose eyesight is a challenge which won’t stop him for long. And meet Forti who seems so over-confident but is really desperate to impress. Along with their fellow recruits, the puffins must work together to help all the birds on the island.

Johnny Ball Accidental Football Genius by Matt Oldfield is a laugh out loud, relatable tale from kick off to the final whistle.

Johnny Ball LOVES football. He loves reading about it, talking about it, watching it – and he loves playing it too. He’s a good player, but not quite good enough to make the Tissbury Primary School team for the super-huge Under-11s County Cup. But never mind, because their clueless coach, Mr Mann, has a special role for Johnny: ASSISTANT MANAGER! With only Grandpa George’s old scarf, a ‘pocket’ notebook and his brilliant football brain, can Johnny lead the Tissbury Primary team all the way to County Cup glory?

And finally, I was delighted to see Sunny by Jason Reynolds on the list – I am a huge fan of the whole Track Series, which starts with Ghost, about four children from wildly different backgrounds with personalities that are explosive when they clash. But they are also four kids chosen for an elite middle school running team – a team that could qualify them for the Junior Olympics if they can get their acts together. They all have a lot to lose and a lot to prove. Not only to each other, but to themselves. Sunny is my favourite of the four books with a rhythmic quality that at times reads like a verse novel.

When Sunny stops running in the middle of a race, Coach asks him what he wants to do instead. His answer is dance, but you can’t be on a track team and dance… can you? With his dad’s expectations weighing down on him, Sunny finally finds a track event that feels like dancing. But as he practices for this new event, can he let go of everything that’s been eating him up inside?

Happy reading!

Reading For Wellbeing!

Reading for pleasure has been shown to reduce stress and improve the mental health and well-being of children and young people in a number of studies, so as it’s healthy schools week, we are celebrating the amazing work children have been doing in their lunchtime book clubs.

Children from Year 5 and 6 have edited manuscripts through Barrington Stokes Young Editors Scheme. We have been lucky enough to work on Calling The Whales by Jasbinder Bilan, and Marvin And The Book Of Magic by Coventry Inspiration Book Award runner-up, Jenny Pearson.

This is a fantastic opportunity for children to not only read books before they are published, but to help ensure they are readable, exciting and entice children to read them. Thank you to all of the children who have chosen to come along at lunchtime to do this, and here’s a message from Jasbinder: “I feel honoured to have this thoughtful and intelligent feedback ! Thank you!”

Until now, Young Editors has only been available to our older children, but having spoken to them about how brilliant it is, they have agreed to put on a manuscript for our Year 3 and 4 readers. I am really looking forward to working with them on Lisa Thompson’s new book due out later this year.

Some of our children in Year 3 and 4 have been working extremely hard to put together a presentation for the Coventry Inspiration Book Awards Celebration Event. We were honoured to be asked to present the award for the Telling Tales Category to Swapna Haddow and Sheena Dempsey for their hilarious book, Bad Panda. You can watch them perform here. I think you can agree that not only are they wonderful ambassadors for Reading For Pleasure, but also for our school.

Unfortunately, neither could make it to the ceremony, but both had sent through lovely messages for the awards ceremony, and Swapna sent through this message after watching the video:

“Oh my goodness!! Your brilliant, brilliant kids!! My heart is so full right now. You must be so proud of them. “

Lily Bailey, who won the Year 5&6 age group – Hooked on Books – said, “The Bad Panda presentation was amazing, so entertaining and I kept thinking “Swapna needs to see this!!” They were brilliant, true pros!!”

Our ambassadors were also presented with the trophies for our Year 5 & 6 Hooked on Books Quiz Team who came third in the schools quiz back on World Book Day. They worked incredibly hard reading all eight titles shortlisted in preparation for the quiz. Although none of us could remember Twitch’s real name until the round was over, I don’t think any of us will ever forget it!

And finally, if you are after some tips on how to encourage your child to read for pleasure, please take a look at this article written by author, S.F. Said, for BookTrust, featuring tips by school librarians who inspire me daily, and one you may recognise.

Happy reading!


Year 1 Challenge Miss Cleveland: Monsters

Grab your cushions of comfort and get ready to for a grisly selection of books based on Year 1s theme: Monsters!

First, it’s important that we know what we are facing… An A to Z Of Monsters And Magical Beings by Rob Hodgson & Aidan Onn is a cornucopia of monstrous information to satisfy the most curious appetites!

Do you know how to escape from a stalking werewolf? Have you always wanted to learn the difference between a hobgoblin and an imp, and do you know the secret to avoiding the sharp claws of the ancient Eloko monster? Learn all these brilliant facts and more with this guide to the strange, scary and wonderful world of monsters and ancient mythical beings!

Spark meaningful discussions about loneliness, friendship, community and coping with loss with this enchantingly illustrated story about a girl who befriends a monster in The Thing At 52 by Ross Montgomery & Richard Johnson, which publishes next month

He was big and lumbering and a wore a tiny top hat perched on top of his rather large head. She didn’t think he had any friends, so she brought him a flower. It wasn’t long before their friendship bloomed… the Thing was gentle and kind and the adventures they went on were the best she could ever imagine. The girl soon discovered that there were many Things, living all over the place… which gave her an idea. She invited them all to a party, and the Things danced till midnight. Thing had never felt so happy. But one day the Thing had to go and their adventures came to an end. All Things have to go sometime

In this poignant story, discover how small acts of kindness can grow into great friendships, and how the community you build from those friendships can provide comfort and companionship when you need it most.

Small! by Hannah Moffatt is a brilliantly funny book about finding your feet in a new school, friendship, and foul food.

Harvey is a small boy in a giant world. On stilts! When Harvey accidentally sets fire to his headteacher’s trousers, Mum decides it’s time for a BIG change and packs him off to Madame Bogbrush’s School for Gifted Giants.But Harvey’s not a giant. He’s a boy on stilts. And if his classmates find out, they’ll stomp him into a sandwich

21% Monster by P.J. Canning is a fun, fast-paced, high-octane action adventure, – the perfect page-turning new series for fans of Alex Rider, Percy Jackson and Marvel.

When Darren Devlin is arrested for destroying his school with his bare hands, it’s not just the police who are after him. Enter Marek Masters, 14 years old, 19% alien, and the most intelligent, most wanted “almost human” alive. Marek is here to tell Darren the truth – he is 21% monster, and together they must take down the secret organisation that created them.

Darren and Marek are wanted, powerful and dangerous. And now it’s payback time.

And finally, I’m sneaking in another book that publishes next month. Buy tissues – you’ll need them from laughing and crying! The Boy Who Made Monsters is utterly, heartbreakingly beautiful storytelling, with Jenny Pearson’s trademark laugh out loud humour.

Benji McLaughlin is a visionary. He believes in things that other people think are impossible, like that he and his brother Stanley will be happy in their new home in Scotland, and that the Loch Lochy monster exists, and that his parents will come home safely one day, even though they’ve been missing for months.

When he finds out that his Uncle Hamish’s Loch Lochy tourist business is struggling, and it looks like Benji and Stanley might lose another home, Benji’s not worried. He has a plan. If he can show everyone that the Loch Lochy monster exists, people will flock to come and see it, and the business will flourish again.

Together with his new friend Murdy and Mr Dog, the best dog in the world, Benji sets off to capture evidence of the monster, even if he has to get a little creative. But Benji might end up confronting more monsters than he expects.

Happy reading!

Year 2 Challenge Miss Cleveland: Our Planet

What a fabulous theme Year 2 have chosen – Our Planet! This has been really tricky to narrow down so I’ve gone with illustrated non-fiction to help reduce my options (it didn’t really help)!

Our World: A First Book of Geography by Sue Lowell Gallion, illustrated by Lisk Feng

A read-aloud introduction to geography for young children that, when opened and folded back, creates a freestanding globe.

Children are invited to identify and experience the Earth’s amazing geography through rhyming verse and lush illustrations: from rivers, lakes, and oceans deep, to valleys, hills, and mountains steep. Secondary text offers more detailed, curriculum-focused facts and encourages readers to consider their own living environments, making the reading experience personal yet set within a global backdrop. This informative homage to Earth is sure to inspire readers to learn more about their planet – and to engage with the world around them.

There are a whole host of atlases to explore, so I’ve chosen two that allow us to explore more than just our planet.

Lift-The-Flap Transport Atlas by Christina Webb and Andy Mansfield

Buckle up! This interactive and colourful atlas takes young readers on a hands-on journey all around the world. Discover the stories behind the world’s most iconic vehicles, including the countries where they were invented and the places that they’re strongly associated with.

Each page turned brings a new continent and its famous forms of transport to life. Discover how the first aeroplane took flight in America, the speed at which Japan’s shinkansen bullet trains travel, and when the first hot air balloon floated into the sky of France. Plus we’ll set sail to learn about the longships rowed by Scandinavia’s vikings and the icebreakers that are used to plough through Antarctica’s sea ice.

Featuring over 100 flaps that lift to reveal fun facts and the inner workings of vehicles, this beautifully illustrated atlas will turbocharge kids’ interest in the world of transport and travel.

Atlas Of Dogs by Frances Evans, illustrated by Kelsey Heaton

Explore the paw-some world of pooches in this definitive guide to dogs that’s packed with fun facts and illustrations.

Large continent maps show the origin of 150 weird and wonderful breeds like the Greenland Dog with wicked sledging skills. Plus amazing Pooch Profiles provide size, coat and personality stats. Kids will love this who’s who of dogs!

Wild In The City by Kate Baker, illustrated by Gianluca Foli

Discover the secret lives of more than 30 extraordinary creatures that share our cities. From red foxes sneaking rides on London buses to leopards prowling the backstreets of Mumbai, this book explores the clever ways animals have adapted to the urban environment and explains how you can help protect your wild neighbors.

Crammed with buildings, traffic, and people, urban spaces are the last place you’d expect to see wildlife. But all kinds of animals live alongside us in the hidden corners of our towns and cities-from ants living under pavement cracks to monkeys and spotted hyenas living among locals.

Travel from city to city across six different continents to meet some of these amazing animals. There are tips on where and when you might see them, what signs to look for, and how you can help make our cities more nature-friendly places. You’ll also see the conservation status of each animal, from the species of least concern to those that are endangered.

The Magnificent Book Of The Abyss by Bethanie and Josh Hestermann, illustrated by Val Walerczuk

This book takes us on a journey to a part of our planet that has barely been explored. Dive into the deep to meet its weird and wonderful residents. Get up close to some of the extraordinary creatures that live thousands of feet beneath the ocean surface – from the barreleye fish with a transparent head to the seaworm that drops ‘bombs’ on its enemies.

Intriguing facts accompany every illustration, so you can find out why the gulper eel has an inflatable mouth, how the dumbo octopus got its name and why the vampire squid turns itself inside out.

Happy reading!

Read For Empathy

Yesterday was Empathy Day – a day which celebrates a superpower everyone can learn. Empathy is our ability to understand and share someone else’s feelings. It builds stronger, kinder communities. It’s a crucial life skill that children need to learn, thrive and make a positive difference. Books provide a safe way to explore different situations and experience other lives, and when children identify with book characters, they
learn to see things from other people’s point of view. As they read, they are building their empathy skills.

This year, 40 books were selected for primary schools, with each book exploring timely, powerful themes, including food poverty and homelessness; handling and sharing emotionsidentity; understanding different cultures and changing society for the better. This week, I am sharing four of my favourites from the list, 

Expanding children’s vocabulary for feelings has a profound effect on understanding self, and building empathy. Everybody Has Feelings by Jon Burgerman is the perfect book to help our younger children do this.

It covers feeling joyful, anxious, brave, jealous, embarrassed and 17 other emotions. The illustrations help explain how each emotion might look bodily.

Nikhil And Jay: The Star Birthday by Chitra Soundar, illustrated by Soofiya is a fabulous collection of four interlinked stories about Nikhil and Jay and their family: Grandad and Granny come to visit from Chennai; there’s a Star Birthday with a special Indian feast; the family go for a banana picnic in the park; and the time comes for Grandad and Granny to go home.  From them the brothers learn practical things about life in India, like cooking. And the grandparents lovingly pass on wisdom about handling emotions.

Everyday interactions with family at their heart make Nikhil and Jay instantly relatable to young children, while opening a window into another culture. The huge Indian feast for Nikhil’s birthday, the family picnic in the park, the sadness at saying goodbye to family who live far away, and the joy at finding a way to stay in touch all give opportunities for discussion beyond the story and a chance for children to work their empathy engines.

The Good Turn by Sharna Jackson is brimming with good-hearted characters. This pacy adventure focuses on how children can make a difference in the world. Josie, Margot and Wesley form a troop called the Copseys and set about challenging racism and social injustice in their community.

Josephine Williams is definitely a leader – and her teachers know it! What other eleven-year-old is desperate for MORE schoolwork? Looking for more challenging tasks, Josie enlists her friends Wesley and Margot into her very own Scout troop, the Copseys, named after the street they all live on. Together they start their quest for their camping badge by sleeping out near to the abandoned factory behind their houses. But that night they stumble across something strange. Someone seems to be living in the derelict building! The Copseys have to solve the mystery… and perhaps earn their bravery and activism badges along the way…

Perfect for readers who love Robin Stevens and Katherine Woodfine, and full of fast-paced adventure, brilliant characters and snappy dialogue with themes of real-life activism and how to help others.

Frankie’s World by Aoife Dooley is a graphic novel offering a unique perspective on autism told with humour and heart. We meet Frankie, who is autistic, as she tries to work out if she’s an alien and why her dad left when she was a baby. A funny, dynamic read full of warmth and heart; a realistic representation of neurodivergence.

Frankie knows she’s not like anyone else in her class: she’s different, but she can’t quite figure out why. Is it the new freckle on her nose, or the fact she’s small for her age? Or that she has to go to the hospital sometimes? Everyone else seems to think she’s weird too, and they make fun of her at school.

Frankie’s dad left when she was a baby – maybe he was different too? It would explain why she always feels like an alien. So she and her best-friend Sam, embark on a mission to track him down. 

And I’m sneaking in a fifth book this week – We’ve Got This: Six Steps To Build Your Empathy Super Power by Rashmi Sirdeshpande & EmpathyLab is the essential empathy handbook for young readers. In just SIX simple steps readers will be taught how to harness empathy as their human SUPERPOWER, and discover how using this power can change their lives and the world around them for the better.

The emotional well-being of children is just as important as their physical health but it’s not something that all children are taught about or are offered support for. Harnessing empathy and growing their emotional intelligence allows children and young people to develop the resilience to cope with life’s ups and downs as well as understand and experience other people’s emotions, feelings and points of view.

Happy reading!

Year 3 Challenge Miss Cleveland: Nature

This week, Year 3 have challenged me to choose books based on the theme of nature, just in time for the weather to be good enough to enjoy books outside!

For our younger children, I have chosen Mrs Noah’s Garden by Jackie Morris and James Mayhew.

The flood is over – but while Mr Noah builds a house out of the ark, Mrs Noah creates a garden. Luckily her famous pockets contain seeds and she has some help from the children – and the creatures. Midsummer morning brings some very special surprises! This magical story from the creators of Mrs Noah’s Pockets explores new beginnings, care for nature and, above all, home.

James Mayhew’s vibrant spreads are the perfect backdrop for Jackie Morris’s lyrical tale which touches on themes of refugees and migration, but my biggest take away from Mrs Noah’s Garden was a new found love for the outdoors, and the creativity it inspires, which leads perfectly onto my next choice…

The Big Book Of Nature Art by Yuval Zommer is packed with twenty-two easy art activities inspired by nature. Each of the activities can be achieved in four simple steps using natural materials combined with recycled or found materials from around the home. Drawing on Zommer’s years of experience running art workshops for children, The Big Book of Nature Art includes his tips for stress-free ways to get creative with kids.

Each nature art activity requires no more than five minutes set-up and five minutes clean-up, making them easy to achieve and fun for everyone involved. The book also encourages children to see the creative potential in the natural and everyday treasures all around us – from twigs, seed pods, petals and leaves through to loo rolls, pencil shavings, takeaway cutlery and kitchen string.

Little nature artists will enjoy making paper-plate birds; leaf bugs; coffee-cup owls; tree bark bats; and seed pod creepy crawlies, as well as scenes for their creatures to dwell in, from watery worlds to underground tunnels.

For our older children, I have picked Witchstorm by Tim Tilley.

Will believes in witches and the stories he’s grown up with – of mythical storm-lions, disappearing villages, and secret songs. Most of all, he believes the tales of magical treasure hidden in the Fens centuries ago. Treasure that he has to find, to solve the mystery of his Ma’s disappearance. Then, in the eye of a storm, a witch arrives. She holds the key to finding the lost treasure – a powerful magical object that can summon storms. But someone else is searching for it too. If it falls into the wrong hands, Will’s beloved home could be destroyed, and with it, his chances of ever finding his ma. Join Will on an epic quest filled with riddles, ruined towers, cloud cities and broomstick chases, on a journey to save everything he loves before time runs out.

An astonishingly atmospheric adventure, that feels timeless. Once you start, you will not want to put it down. Tim Tilley’s keen observations about the flora and fauna transport the reader to Will’s world, a time of rapid industrial growth, where motor cars are in their infancy. A strong environmental message about living in harmony with the natural world is woven effortlessly into this story of witches, wildlife, courage and hope. I’ll definitely be paying more attention to the clouds from now on.

And finally, I Am The Seed That Grew A Treenamed after the first line of Judith Nicholls’ poem ‘Windsong’, is a lavishly illustrated collection of 366 nature poems selected by Fiona Waters. There is one for every day of the year, including leap years and is filled with familiar favourites and new discoveries, written by a wide variety of poets, including – John Agard, Roger McGough, Christina Rossetti, William Shakespeare, and many more. There are in fact 185 named poets and many anonymous poems to explore and enjoy including much-loved classics, contemporary favourites, traditional rhymes and poetry in translation.

Published in collaboration with the National Trust, this anthology is a brilliant introduction to a wide range of nature poetry, through which you can explore the wonderful world of animals, plants, trees, weather and much more with each carefully selected poem. Stunning original artwork lets you travel through the changing seasons and immerse yourself in the beauty and wonder of the natural world. This is the perfect book for children (and grown-ups!) to share at the beginning or the end of the day, or just to dip into.

Happy reading!


Year 4 Challenge Miss Cleveland: Dystopian Worlds

This week, Year 4 have challenged me to recommend books set in ‘Dystopian Worlds’. Dystopian fiction, in all of its forms, shows a world in decline or collapse. Regardless of the root cause, the common person is labouring under some form of oppressive control, the most common culprits being government, technology, and social conditioning. Disaster can strike without much—or any—warning; an environmental collapse, a world war, a robotic uprising, a global pandemic…

Flooded by Mariajo Ilustrajo

The flood comes gradually at first.  All the animals ignore the obvious and go about their busy lives, disjointed from one another and preoccupied by their own problems. Eventually, the flood water reaches a height that they can no longer ignore and they have to work together to save their city. All the animals join together in a line and pull out the plug that is drowning the city.

This is an exceptionally illustrated story that teaches a message not to let problems fester and with a little team work and community spirit, no problem is insurmountable. 

The King Who Banned The Dark by Emily Haworth-Booth

There was once a little boy who was afraid of the dark. There’s nothing unusual about that. Most children are afraid of the dark at one time of another. But this little boy was a Prince, and he decided that when he became King, he would do something about the dark. He would ban it. When a King bans the dark completely, installing an artificial sun, and enforcing “anti-dark” laws, it seems like a good idea. The citizens don’t need to worry about monsters, crime, or any of the other scary things that might live in the dark. But what happens when nobody can sleep, and the citizens revolt? Will the King face his fears and turn the lights off?

The King Who Banned the Dark is a beautiful story about how we need the dark in order to enjoy the light.

It’s The End Of The World And I’m In My Bathing Suit by Jason A.Reynolds

What happens when five unsupervised kids face the apocalypse under outrageously silly circumstances? Twelve-year-old Eddie Gordon Holloway has concocted his most genius plan ever to avoid chores … especially the dreaded L-A-U-N-D-R-Y. If he can wears every item of clothing in his wardrobe, summer will be halfway over before he has to do laundry! On the day of the highly anticipated Beach Bash, Eddie ends up grounded until he can get his clothes clean. While left home alone to do his laundry, the power goes out mid-cycle. With his first load of laundry soaking wet and the rest still filthy, Eddie sets out to explore the seemingly empty neighborhood in just his swim trunks and flip-flops. As he meets up with other neighborhood kids to find out what happened, they realize that their families aren’t coming back anytime soon. And as night falls, the crew realizes they aren’t just the only people left in the neighborhood – they might be the only people left . . . anywhere.

Laugh out loud funny,and the first in the series, this is perfect for fans of The Last Kids On Earth (read the books before watching it on Netflix though).

Day Of The Whale by Rachel Delahaye

Cam’s quest to understand Big Blue leads him to new friends and shared adventures – but the truth, when he finds it, is more dangerous than ever he could have imagined. ‘Follow the big blue’. That was the last thing Cam’s father said to him. Cam follows Big Blue – everybody does on the island of Cetacea. Their lives take place within his rules, delivered to them by enigmatic whale-talker, Byron Vos. Byron was once a marine scientist but is now organizing an epic clean-up operation to revive the ocean after centuries of human greed and neglect. And yet Cam wonders if there is a more complex truth. A truth that may be connected to his father’s disappearance. Cam’s quest to understand Big Blue leads him to new friends and shared adventures – but the truth, when he finds it, is more dangerous than ever he could have imagined.

This is a captivating read that is as unsettling as it is insightful into the way that power can corrupt, and what life in a world devastated by global warming might be like. I loved the links to First Nation art and beliefs that flowed through the story, and the importance of family, friends and community to support us all when life is difficult.

And finally, this weekend, Kenilworth Books are celebrating their 55th birthday with music, crafts, cake, and alpacas! The party begins at 11am so pop down and join in the fun.

Happy reading!