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Welcome to the new term!

We’re a couple of weeks in to our new school term and the Library has been really busy! We’ve had new books and a new time slot for children and adults to come in after school on a Wednesday to see the library and share books. Yesterday, we had several children proudly showing what the Library has to offer to their adults and it was so lovely to see how they knew where everything was! Thank you to everyone who came in and I look forward to seeing more of you in the weeks to come.

Over the last couple of weeks, we’ve been sharing some funny books together. Last week, to coincide with Roald Dahl Day, we started reading the new edition of Billy and the Minpins, illustrated by Sir Quentin Blake.

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The children enjoyed the thrill of Billy’s disobedience into the rather scarily named Forest of Sin and helpfully reminded me of its name when I kept saying Forest of Doom instead this week! Being a Dahl book, there were plenty of funny names to listen to and the excitement of a child being a bit naughty. We will keep reading this in the weeks to come.

This week, I have enjoyed reading Michael Rosen’s Chocolate Cake.

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If there was ever a book to be read aloud, it’s this one, with its cheeky storyline and its joyful exclamations. Nearly everyone loves chocolate cake (only one person in each group said they didn’t) and the children thought it marvellous how little Michael got up in the middle of the night to raid the cupboard. Some hid behind their books when ‘the terrible thing happened’ (no spoilers please!) although for most it was their favourite part! Naughtiness combined with cake is a perfect combination, and Rosen’s words have a natural appeal for the young.

There were plenty of belly laughs, and not just from me! And when I opened the library yesterday after school, the children made a beeline for the book – all of them – waiting in turn for their chance to show their adults what they had been reading, and begging for a second or third helping!

You can see Michael Rosen performing Chocolate Cake on YouTube here. The children loved it – it’s definitely worth a watch.

Back soon!

 

 

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Pottertastic – celebrating 20 years of Harry Potter!

Every year at St Michael’s Primary School in Oxford, where I am the Librarian, we run a fun summer challenge based on books and reading. In previous years, we’ve had Cakespeare (make/decorate a cake based on something from Shakespeare), Supertato veggie/fruit villains and heroes, and the Strangest Place to Read.

Since this year marks the 20th anniversary of the publication of Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone, we decided to base our competition on J.K. Rowling’s publishing phenomenon. I called it ‘Pottertastic’ and the challenge was for pupils in Key Stage 1 to colour in a picture from either Harry Potter or Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them. Children in Key Stage 2 were encouraged to create a new character, object (eg wand, horcrux), Petronus, shop, etc, that could fit in nicely with the books.

With two weeks to do their best, the children set about their work, while my daughter Holly helped me design the background for the display, together with the help of Bloomsbury Kids UK, who sent me some decorations.

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The display awaiting the children’s artwork

When the deadline arrived, I was amazed by the results. Two classes – Reception and Year 1, had embraced the competition and decided to use it as a prompt for their Big Write or class artwork. Therefore, I had pictures of Fantastic Beasts from every one of the children in both classes, with the children in Year 1 also writing amazing descriptions of what their beasts were and what they could do.

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Some of the writing was very impressive indeed, and we gave special writing awards to two children for their efforts. See, for example, Lucy (below) who wrote about her beast, Diamond, of whom she is very fond:

Diamond

Three children in the school created models of their entries.

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Sapphire Bird (this has feathers on the underside – hopefully I will be able to hang it up!)
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Voldemort’s Spirit (another horcrux) lies inside this green tub and flashes! Under no circumstances must you open it. This handy map also gives you further information.
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This is a fish but with a  human head. It can move on both land and water!

Interestingly, the children in Key Stage 2 based their creations on potential family members from the past and future. We have:

  • Valdi – Voldemort’s son who is 12 and really wants to be good but his father won’t allow it
  • Harry’s twin sister, Ellie – who was trapped in a crystal
  • Emily Potter – Harry’s long-lost sister!
  • Emma Upton – who escaped from Voldemort’s attack, although she has the same scar as her brother
  • Dobby’s family – both his mum and dad seem to love socks!

As you can imagine, judging the competition was extremely hard. Holly and Carl (my husband) went through all 75 entries and narrowed them down to 17 (I didn’t get involved to ensure neutrality!).

On Monday of this week, a good friend of mine, children’s/YA author Angela Kecojevic, came into school to help announce the winners. She treated the children to some slimy character creations based on her Hobbledown books and theme park and they all squealed with delight at her descriptions of her characters, especially when fellow pupils had to act them out in front of the assembly.

It always delights and inspires me when the children, families and staff enter into the spirit of these competitions, and we are incredibly fortunate to be supported in the activities we run to promote reading for enjoyment. Our library is an amazing resource but it wouldn’t be the place it is without the support, love and enthusiasm of everyone who uses it. Pottertastic was a huge success and it’s all down to everyone who supported it!

I’d like to thank Bloomsbury Kids UK for their generosity in sending us bunting, posters, bookmarks and other items to help with our display. I’d also like to thank Carl and Holly for their time in helping me with the competition – especially Holly, who designed the display board! And finally, a huge thank you to everyone in Year 1 and Reception for devoting so much time to supporting this competition.

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Veggies on the run

What better book to read in the (pardon the pun) run-up to sports day than Sue Hendra’s and Paul Linnet’s latest instalment in the Supertato series, Run, Veggies, Run!?

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It was actually pretty coincidental that I picked this up in the bookshop the week before our school had its annual sports day. I just saw the cover and thought I had to add this book to our collection because the children at St Michael’s are such huge fans. And indeed, when I showed them their special surprise during story time, their faces lit up, and they gasped so excitedly, that I knew we’d be onto a winner.

What it’s about:

Supertato isn’t impressed by his fellow veggies’ fitness … or lack thereof. They can’t keep up with the speed on the conveyor-belt/treadmill and he has to rescue them from falling in the baggage area.

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Added to that, their diet leaves something to be desired – gorging on crisps (uh, do they not know where they come from?!), doughnuts and burgers and dozing in hammocks mean they’re not at their fittest. As Supertato remarks: “Whoever heard of an unhealthy vegetable?” (The children piped up at this point that there are some – eg ones that are rotten.)

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To inspire his friends to adopt a healthier lifestyle, Supertato arranges a sports day, where there will be running, jumping, carrying the heaviest item… etc. But just as they’re about to start, who should make a last-minute appearance but The Evil Pea, along with his protegee, Gloria (a suspicious-looking watermelon). The Evil Pea announces that Gloria is going to win all the activities and she soon does. But Supertato knows that something’s not right … and he’s out to find out what it is.

What we thought:

As expected, the children loved this story from the first to the last page. The usual silly (but very funny) jokes were there, along with the favourite vegetables. I think The Evil Pea ranks up with Supertato in terms of popularity too – it was as if the children were holding their breath for his appearance in the story to make it that bit more funny and exciting. They nearly jumped out of their seats in excitement when he rolled up with Gloria! They followed the story avidly and asked for it to be read to them again as soon as I had finished. You can’t ask for better than that, can you?

Afterwards…

Since we were gearing up for Sports Day, I asked the children to design pictures of various fruit or veg doing sporty things. They got stuck into that with glee, with some interesting results.

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Sorry for the blurry image – it’s because the fruit and veg are moving! (Not really…) In the pic on the left, we have a swimming banana with a carrot balancing on his head, and a red pepper jumping rope alongside The Evil Pea on a trampoline. On the right is a netball game of carrots against aubergines. Not sure who’s winning, but Supertato, as ref, will ensure a correct result.

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In this picture, The Evil Pea, wearing his black cape, is jumping rope alongside a happy broccoli. They seem to be enjoying themselves…

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Of course Supertato had to feature in many of the drawings. In the three above, we see various representations of the Super Spud, one swimming after The Evil Pea, one running to the rescue of a friend, and a final one who looks rather frightened (and like he’s sprouting something out of his head).

As usual, Supertato has been a huge success. We can’t wait to read his next adventure!

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Empathy – and where to read about it

Today is Empathy Day, and what better way to learn about what it is and why it is important than through children’s books?

What I love about children’s books is that they can convey very important messages and morals without sounding preachy or authoritarian. That’s a pretty impressive skill and one that perhaps isn’t always celebrated when considering the impact and effect children’s literature can have on its readers. I know of many examples of books that portray difficult emotions and conditions exceptionally well, from grief and sadness to anger and frustration. These needn’t be ‘special’ books either – ones that have been written for children dealing with bereavement or social anxiety, for example. Their strength lies in their ability to inspire or soothe, explain or question. Children learn through osmosis – they understand what’s in front of them without it having to be made explicit.

For today’s post, I will concentrate on Empathy since it’s celebrating its own special day! But I will return to other emotions soon!

Great  books for talking/learning about empathy:

The Lumberjack’s Beard and The Bear Who Stared

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Duncan Beedie’s recent creations deal with empathy in a humorous yet effective way. In The Lumberjack’s Beard, the titular lumberjack suddenly realises what effect his tree-unfriendly actions have on the environment and tries to put it right. In The Bear Who Stares, the bear doesn’t understand why everyone he meets gets angry with him… until a friendly frog sets him straight and tells him that staring isn’t the best idea when trying to get on with others. Both books have wonderful illustrations that enhance the story and which children never tire of seeing.

Dave’s Rock

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Frann Preston-Gannon’s second book featuring caveman Dave is a great look at the importance of sharing and getting along with others. In it, Dave is competing with Jon to see whose rock is better, but all it leads to is frustration and annoyance. However, in the end, the two find a way for them both to be happy, by understanding how each other feels. This makes them feel better than winning any competition.

The Cow Who Fell to Earth

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Nadia Shireen’s new book, The Cow Who Fell to Earth, takes a very bizarre situation and makes a heartwarming comedy from it. Poor Woo has landed on Earth and no one can understand a word she says. To make matters worse, the sheep assume she is a he and call her Dave. When Woo starts crying tears of sadness and frustration, the sheep work hard to make her feel better and get her back home. A hilarious and sweet book about the importance of helping others, even if they speak a different language!

Odd Dog Out

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In Rob Biddulph’s humorous story, being out of place seems like the worst thing in the world, until Odd Dog discovers that it’s kind of cool to be different. When she decides to be true to herself, she realises that plenty more dogs want to be their own dog and sets a trend. This is great for teaching children acceptance of other people’s differences and to be happy in themselves.

Mr Stink

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It’s not very nice to be stinky but there’s often a reason behind it, as Chloe discovers in David Walliams’s Mr Stink. The two characters soon forge a firm friendship based on their experiences of being bullied and misunderstood, and find ways to help each other out of sadness andloneliness.

Matilda

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On a similar theme of not belonging, Roald Dahl introduces us to Matilda, a clever young girl who seems to have been born into the wrong family. Preferring books to television and education to laziness, Matilda finally finds a kindred spirit in Miss Honey, who turns out to be the niece of the very wicked Miss Trunchbull. Even though life becomes very difficult for the two, the fact that they have found each other makes it much more bearable.

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Congratulations, Lauren Child!

While the country heads out to vote today, yesterday a huge announcement was made in the world of children’s literature: Lauren Child became the new (and tenth!) Children’s Laureate, taking over from illustrator and writer Chris Riddell, who held the post for the last two years.

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What is the Children’s Laureate?

According to the Children’s Laureate website:

The idea for the Children’s Laureate originated from a conversation between (the then) Poet Laureate Ted Hughes and children’s writer Michael Morpurgo. They considered it an appropriate and timely way to combine the celebration of excellence in writing and illustration for children with honouring individuals who have made a significant and lasting contribution to the world of children’s books.

Quentin Blake was the first Children’s Laureate (1999-2001), followed by Anne Fine (2001-2003), Michael Morpurgo (2003-2005), Jacqueline Wilson (2005-2007), Michael Rosen (2007-2009), Anthony Browne (2009-2011), Julia Donaldson (2011-2013), Malorie Blackman (2013-2015), Chris Riddell (2015-2017) and now Lauren Child (2017-19).

Each Children’s Laureate has taken the opportunity to promote particular aspects of children’s books. These have included visual literacy, readers with disabilities, poetry, storytelling, illustration, drama, writing for young adults and more.

You can read about the history of the Children’s Laureate in theis article from the Guardian.

Supporting school libraries

I think it’s wonderful that children’s literature is celebrated in this way and that we have such fantastic ambassadors championing the importance of all aspects of reading for the youngest members of society. Chris Riddell in particular made school libraries a focus for his work in a time when many schools do not have the money, space or resources for this area of school life. This drawing sums up his beliefs well:

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Chris Riddell

We are lucky…

Here at St Michael’s we are so lucky to have the amazing resources that we do. Our library is, in comparison to many schools, huge and very well stocked, thanks to provision made in our budget and generous donations by parents – past and present. We are also incredibly fortunate to have all you wonderful parents, family and friends supporting everything we do, from book fairs (which raise money so we can buy even more books for the library!) to our weird and wacky competitions to celebrate reading for pleasure. We are truly grateful for everything that you do for us.

Read the Laureates!

We are fortunate to have books by all the Children’s Laureates in the Library, so please do check them out:

Quentin Blake (1999-2001) – we have several of his picture books and, of course, most if not all of the Roald Dahl books he illustrated

Anne Fine (2001-2003) – we have her novels for younger and older children, including the famous Madame Doubtfire and Killer Cat

Michael Morpurgo (2003-2005) and Jacqueline Wilson (2005-2007) – we have entire bookshelves devoted to each of these writers and, needless to say, they are amongst the most frequently borrowed books in the library!

Michael Rosen (2007-2009) – we have books of his poetry to browse through as well as the old favourite We’re Going on a Bear Hunt

Anthony Browne (2009-2011) – we have a selection of Anthony Browne’s picture books, including Willy the Wizard, which is one of our children’s favourites for storytime

Julia Donaldson (2011-2013) – one of our most borrowed authors, I think we have almost everything written by this popular lady!

Malorie Blackman (2013-2015) – her books live in our special section for Years 5 and 6

Chris Riddell (2015-2017) -we have the Ottoline and Goth Girl books and of course plenty of other authors’ books Chris has illustrated

Lauren Child (2017-19) – the children at school know all about Charlie and Lola of course and Clarice Bean and they are still popular for storytimes. We have a large selection of these books in the library.

This week we will be dedicating our Library Lunchtimes to creating a display on Lauren Child’s work. Watch this space for pictures!

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We’re getting ready for the LOLLIES!

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Yesterday, this year’s shortlisted books for Scholastic’s LOLLIES awards were announced, and I am delighted to say that we will be shadowing them in the Library!

Last year, we voted for ourfavourite title in the picture book category – the ever-popular I Need a Wee by Sue Hendra, which won overall in its category. This book is still rarely on our shelves which is proof of how children love it.

This year, we have a range of different books to choose from, as follows:

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Picture book category:

  • The Prince of Pants – by Alan MacDonald and Sarah McIntyre
  • Eat Your People! – by Lou Kuenzler and David Wojtowycz
  • Oi Dog! – by Kes and Claire Gray and Jim Field
  • Danny McGee – by Andy Stanton and Neal Layton

You can watch Michael Rosen announcing the shortlist here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xV_GkxOemIs

6-8 category:

  • Future Ratboy and the Invasion of the Nom Noms – by Jim Smith
  • Eddy Stone and the Epic Holiday Mash-Up – by Simon Cherry
  • Thimble Monkey Superstar – by Jon Blake and Martin Chatterton
  • Hamish and the Neverpeople – by Danny Wallace and Jamie Littler

You can watch Katie Thistleton announcing the shortlist here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=GKkUpsBNxXs

9-13 category:

  • AniMalcom – by David Baddiel and Jim Field
  • I Don’t Like Poetry – by Joshua Seigal
  • The Best Medicine – by Christine Hamill
  • My Gym Teacher is an Alien Overlord – by David Solomons

You can watch Nicolette Jones announcing the shortlist here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Qsd5_mgxMZo

We are waiting for the titles to be delivered so watch this space! I’d love as many people as possible to get involved so I’ll look at arranging some lunchtime sessions where we can take a look at them altogether.

If you’ve already read some of these – or maybe ALL of these – come to see me and tell me what you thought!

 

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Happy World Book Day!

Hello everyone and Happy World Book Day!

As you probably know, we celebrated our World Book Day yesterday with the amazing author and illustrator Duncan Beedie. He visited our school and managed to give four different talks and even a drawing masterclass – he must have been exhausted at the end!

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All our children loved the day – and I’ll be posting pictures soon of all our fun, once I’ve managed to work out how to download them from the digital camera…

Year 2 summed up what they enjoyed most about yesterday:

  • “The best bit was when Duncan Beedie came to talk to us.”
  • “It was good when we talked to Duncan Beedie about gardening in Gardening Club.”
  • “I liked dressing up as a fox, it was really good.”
  • “I liked reading books because they were unusual fiction books.”

In honour of Duncan’s visit, one of the fir tree seeds he sent us with his new book The Lumberjack’s Beard had actually sprouted! The Gardening Club were, rightly, very proud of their efforts.

I would like to thank all the children and staff who made huge efforts to dress up for the day, and for parents for putting in so much time and energy. I don’t think I have ever seen so many lumberjacks in one place before, and today we all feel rather bare without our beards. Narelle, our cook, really went to town on her costume but assured us that she did not cook with her magnificent beard on!

We also had trees, birds, forest animals, woodland nymphs and Aragog from The Lord of the Rings (who people kept thinking was Darth Vader, so a two-in-one costume!). There was an amazing porcupine in Reception, with realistic quills sticking out his back.

Today the children exchanged their £1 book tokens for a World Book Day book, unless they wanted to go into a bookshop for a further browse. As predicted, David Walliams’ Blob went down well, as did The Famoud Five, Horrid Henry and Jacqueline Wilson’s Butterfly Beach.

I’ll be back soon with the photos … watch this space.