My Kingdom for a Cake!

Anyone who walked into the primary school where I work last week would have been forgiven for thinking that it was a bakery because of all the marvellous cakes brought in to celebrate our annual reading challenge – Cakespeare! Every year we run a whole-school competition for the children to enter, based on a theme…

T’was the night before Cakespeare…

Tomorrow sees the closing date of our annual school challenge based on books. The idea is for the children to get creative about an element of reading and this year we’re doing… drum roll please… Cakespeare! You may be able to guess from this stunning play on words (!) that we have challenged the children…

It could have happened in a book

but it didn’t. It happened here and however much 48% of us wished it went the other way, we woke up to a country we scarcely recognised on June 24 2016. I am talking of course of the Brexit Referendum, which has been splashed over newspapers and news sites around the world since the shock…

A book about children that is not for children

The Writing for a Child Audience module on my MA said that the age of the protagonist(s) in a book determined the age of the intended audience. And if the main character of a book was a child, chances are that the book is written for children. So a story featuring a child aged 12-13…

Caramel Hearts… or don’t melt chocolate in a microwave…

I have an interesting book review to write tonight because it’s also a write-up of an experiment with one of the recipes in the book. So it’s a double review, if you like! The book in question is Caramel Hearts, written by E.R. Murray, and if you like YA fiction with some baking thrown in,…

The pets’ story of World War II

Much is known about daily life in Britain during World War II: the rationing, the bombing, the evacuation of thousands of children from the cities to the countryside. A less-well-known aspect, however, was the destruction of thousands of beloved family pets just before war was officially declared on Germany. People were urged to have their…

Can fantasy cause mental illness in children?

You’ve probably heard about the storm an English headteacher has caused by declaring that fantasy novels, such as the Harry Potter series, Lord of the Rings and The Hunger Games, can cause mental illness in children. Graeme Whiting, headteacher at the Acorn School in Gloucester, said in a recent blog post that the aforementioned books:…

Veronica, the Conspicuous Hippo, and the power of stories for vocabulary

Recently I was lucky to receive a review copy of Veronica by Roger Duvoisin, republished by Bodleian’s Children’s Books – a fairly new but sure-to-be popular company. Veronica is the third in their list, and it’s as delightful as the previous two: Penguin’s Way and Whale’s Way (you can read more about these in my…

A minimum age for metaphor?

Two weeks ago, I read Oliver Jeffers’s picture book The Heart and the Bottle to children in Years 1 and 2 at school. It is a book that I read a few years ago and enjoyed – admiring its ability to portray human grief sensitively and poetically. I wanted to share it with the children…

A modern fable of courage, devotion and being true to yourself

In a world where children and young adults are constantly fed unrealistic images about their bodies and their clothes and even their personalities, there is an even greater need for stories that portray issues that really matter. Not through doctrination or dogmatism, but through tales that inspire, comfort and raise the spirit. Chilean political activist,…

Inspirational female writers

Some sort of cyberspace kerfuffle has broken out about a comment American journalist Gay Talese made in an event at Boston University. Apparently, when asked to name female writers who had inspired him, he replied ‘None’. (You can read more here.) I don’t want to comment on this specifically as there are all sorts of…

The Lie Tree – a true award winner

It’s been a little while since I’ve written a review for my Popsugar Reading Challenge but today I’m pleased to write about my choice for the National Book Award category. However, I’ve cheated on this, not being based in the USA, and have chosen Frances Hardinge’s The Lie Tree, which won the Costa Book of…