Author Archives: thebookactivist

About thebookactivist

Celebrating children & young people’s reading through all sorts of book-ish activities.

World Book Day….just around the corner!

A week today, it’s World Book Day (4th March); that time of year when we all go a bit more book-crazy!

I love World Book Day – the fact there is a whole day marked out for celebrating just how wonderful books are is brilliant. And I love the costumes (yes really I do – it helps being married to Mr Dilly who has a big costume cupboard!) Yes, books should be celebrated every day, but I think it’s great that the whole world comes together to celebrate books every Spring. A UNESCO initiative marked in over 100 countries around the world, World Book Day is enjoyed by hundreds of children – and dare I say it, adults too -up and down the country.

Working as a school librarian, World Book Day was always a great day to be in the library. Children would love to see what was happening – and generally just be excited to be in there, in costume, trying to find the book their character was from (if they hadn’t brought it in from home)! I’ve run Jackanory (always a huge favourite – teachers and other guests reading aloud), book breakfasts (food and books…),Mad-Hatter tea parties (more food and books …) a multitude of competitions (Show us your Shelfie, Guess Who’s reading, Get Caught Reading) book art sessions (crafting using old books), reading treasure hunts (use the clue to find the book). And then there’s the special World Book Day assemblies – I once delivered an assembly in my pyjamas (we chose to celebrate Bedtime Stories that year), as a Ringmaster (circus themed another year) and even using a Dr Who pop-up wardrobe through which teachers ‘appeared’ as their favourite book characters. Fond memories! Despite schools being closed for most, and in-person events not possible, there’s still plenty of ways to celebrate. This year more than ever, bringing the magic of books to life wherever you are, is a great idea and there are some brilliant online events that will help.

National charity, World Book Day, seeks to change lives through encouraging a love of books and shared reading. They’ve a planned a whole host of events and participation campaigns to mark the occasion, supported by high-profile partners, authors, illustrators and poets. On the World Book Day website you can access Early Years, Primary and Secondary toolkits with activities and discussion guides for teachers, parents and carers with useful downloads like ‘5 ways to encourage children to read’ and ‘Top Tips for Sharing Stories’. Also available now, there’s an Authors and Illustrators Academy with tutorial videos from this year’s World Book Day authors including Jonny Duddle, Joseph Coelho and Lydia Monks to encourage creativity. From the 1st March, a brilliant social media participation campaign #ShowYourShares invites everyone to post photos of themselves sharing a story (and maybe win a prize!).

From 3rd-5th March there’s a programme of FREE ‘Share a Story’ events featuring a range of children’s favourite authors – Katherine Rundell, Humza Arshad, Tom Fletcher, Sita Brahmachari to name a few. Each event runs between 25-30 minutes on the World Book Day YouTube channel or via their website and focuses on ‘Books that make us LOL’ (6yrs+) ‘Words and pictures -bringing reading to life’ (4yrs+) and ‘How reading helps us understand the real world’ (9yrs+).

All in all, World Book Day have made something for everyone and it’s all free. Not only that, the website is active all year round so you can keep celebrating, every day!

Find out more at www.worldbookday.com.

New Review: The Boy Who Met A Whale by Nizrana Farook

This book has been burning a hole in my TBR pile for several months now and I am so glad to have read it and be sharing my review today. Author Nizrana Farook, whose debut novel, The Girl Who Stole An Elephant, captivated readers, has returned to fictional Sri Lanka for another tale full of thrills and adventure in The Boy Who Met A Whale for children aged 9+.

Razi, a local fisherboy, is watching turtle eggs hatch when he sees a boat bobbing into view. With a chill, he notices a small, still hand hanging over the side… Inside is Zheng, who’s escaped a shipwreck and is full of tales of sea monsters and missing treasure. But the villains who are after Zheng are soon after Razi and his sister, Shifa, too. And so begins an exhilarating adventure in the shadow of the biggest sea monster of them all…

This is a fantastic adventure story and from the first page, the sights and sounds of the tropical island of Serendib are wonderfully described. You can almost see the coconut trees, touch the sea turtles and hear the waves on the beach! As Razi and Shifa embark on a perilous journey to help their new found friend, Zheng, Razi has his own fears to face having not been in the sea since the death of his father, for which he blames himself. His sister Shifa, is not quite so trusting of Zheng, especially when it’s clear the real danger they face from the villainous treasure hunters. Is there really hidden treasure? And who does it really belong to? The plot thickens with every page, and the wonder of the ocean and creatures who live in it is brilliantly brought to life. With action-packed moments throughout and a great friendship building between Raz, Shifa and Zheng – and not forgetting the blue whale – this is an adventure story everyone should escape into!

With thanks to Nosy Crow for sending me this book to review.

New review: The World Made a Rainbow by Michelle Robinson illustrated by Emily Hamilton

First published in September 2020 by Bloomsbury, with a proportion of proceeds for every sale going to Save the Children, The World Made a Rainbow is a delightful and moving story sharing a message of hope for young children and families – that is relevant for any day you might be feeling blue. Bestselling author Michelle Robinson was desperate to find a way to help small children navigate their way through the complex emotions caused by the lockdown. With charming illustrations from new talent Emily Hamilton, The World Made a Rainbow is the ideal picture book to share with all the family, giving them just the lift and spark of hope needed at this time.

I will happily admit, that as we live through another lockdown, and as life feels a bit like a never-ending hamster wheel, this story was just the encouragement I needed when I read it. Empathy and understanding pours from every page, as a little girl and her mum decide to make a rainbow to help everyone feel better about being stuck at home. Soon her Dad and her brother are helping too, bringing the family together as they create a symbol of hope for all and recall the happy times they have shared. Told with a rhyming narrative and bright and colourful illustrations, the story cleverly highlights all the things we might miss most whilst having to stay at home- family, friends, school days, going outside on adventures. And it reminds us that all those things are still there and will be there when this time comes to an end, and we will be able to make new memories, together.

Gemma Sherrington, Executive Director of Fundraising and Marketing at Save the
Children said: “The money raised from the sale of this heartwarming book will go towards supporting Save the Children’s programmes to help every child reach their full potential and to make sure they stay safe, healthy and learning.”

To explore the themes in the book with young children, you can use the activity pack to help with opportunities to think about the things that make you happy and colour your own rainbow.

As we approach #BookGivingDay 2021, I can’t think of a better book to gift a child (and their family) at this time – or any day when life isn’t quite where you want it to be.

With thanks to Bloomsbury for sharing this title with me. Find out more at www.bloomsbury.com

BLOG TOUR: Opie Jones Talks to Animals by Nat Luurtsema, illustrated by Fay Austin

It’s BLOG TOUR time! What a great first book to host for 2021! Opie Jones Talks to Animals is written by stand-up comic, comedy writer and film-maker Nat Luurtsema, published by Egmont Books. In her first novel for middle-grade readers, she starts this new series with a bang in a brilliant twist on the traditional superhero story. Today is my stop on the blog tour and I’m sharing my review.

Opie Jones Talks to Animals by Nat Luurtsemam illustrated by Fay Austin

10-year-old Opie Jones is Very Ordinary. In fact nothing remarkable has ever
happened to her. So she is naturally very surprised when she is recruited to join
The Resistance – a team of superheroes who can read minds, and have a dastardly brainwashing villain to defeat. HOWEVER… it turns out Opie can’t read human minds, she can read ANIMAL ones. The other members of the Resistance are very disappointed. But when the brainwashing villain is out to get Opie and her friends, it might just be that listening to all the creatures great and small is what makes Opie Jones the right person to save the world.

What a fantastic read! It’s not always you find a book you want to read without stopping – I read this in two hours. Opie is a delightful character and alongside the animal mind-reader/superhero storyline, there’s also a whole theme around the challenges of making friends, feeling different and discovering that actually, most people feel like that for one reason or another. Opie is surrounded by a wonderful cast – her parents, Harvey and Violet, both actors and fabulously theatrical; Jackson, her handsome, but perhaps a little thoughtless friend; Cillian, her frenemy, unkind but perhaps hiding his own insecurities; The Resistance – never a group less likely to be superheroes! And of course, the animals. I will never look at my cats the same way after meeting Margot Von Catten – just brilliant! And then there’s worms, insects, all manner of birds, moles, dogs, frogs, badgers and more, all of whom have their own, hilarious and often unexpected personalities. Take Malcolm the guinea-pig and psyhco-therapist in the making! I absolutely loved the spotlights on these fantastic additions to the tale, brought to life with brilliantly expressive illustrations by Fay Austin. It’s not all fluffy bunnies though with dastardly villain, Hugo Varling planning a takeover of Opie’s schools with an evil, mind control plot. Well-paced, witty and full of moments of wisdom, I defy anyone to read this and not enjoy it (and also wish they could talk to animals afterwards…especially their cats!)

With thanks to Egmont Books for sending me this book to review and inviting me to participate in the blog tour! Don’t forget to check out the rest of the tour:

Resources to encourage creativity at home – inspired by books!

We know it’s good to encourage our children to ‘be creative’, alongside their homelearning. In particular time to read is so important, offering an ‘escape’ for young minds and inspiring imaginations. But with schoolwork to do, our own work to complete and the daily juggle on going, it’s a bit of a challenge, to say the least!

Help is at hand with the multiple online resources available to provide inspiration – but time to navigate these is also short! Today, I’ve gathered some on the blog that have caught my eye, and that I think will give your young readers the opportunity to get creative and encourage their reading for pleasure.

Picture Books

Award-winning Umbrella by Elena Arevalo Melville tells the story of Clara who finds a magical umbrella in the park which leads her on a wonderful journey of discovery! Read my review here. Ideal for storytime, author Elena has recorded the story (approx 10mins). There are delightful activities including inviting children to imagine what they would wish for if they found a magical umbrella! For more formal teaching, there is a scheme of work available exploring the themes and characters in the story. Published by Scallywag Press.

Larger-than-life story What’s in the Truck? by Philip Aardagh and Jason Chapman tells the tale of a dog prince and his ever changing vehicles! You can read an extract of the story and there are fun activities to entertain young readers. There’s also an online event hosted by indie bookshop, The Book Nook in Hove with Philip and Jason participating in a storytime and drawalong which children will love! Published by Faber.

Big Cat by Emma Lazell  is a hilarious story about Isobel and her Grandma and their discovery of a very Big Cat in the garden. Read my review here. Fans of cats will absolutely love this story; you can read an extract here, listen to Emma read the story aloud and there’s an activity pack to encourage budding young illustrators. Published by Pavilion Books

Sky Private Eye by Jane Clarke & Loretta Schauer is a delightful series featuring Sky, who can be found searching for clues and solving mysteries involving fairytale characters we know and love ( think Red Riding Hood, the Gingerbread Man) – and also has a fondness for baking! Read my review here. There are some lovely activities available including making cakes for the young bakers in your lives (but don’t let the Big Bad Wolf find out…!) Published by Five Quills.

Illustrated fiction

The Boy Who Grew Dragons by Andy Shepherd and illustrated by Sara Ogilvie is a hugely popular series for 7-9 year olds. The fifth and final book in the series published this month and the author has created a range of fantastic resources to bring the stories to life through activities, book talk and arts and crafts ideas. Andy has also created a brilliant mini dragon story resource with a video and ideas for illustration. Published by Piccadilly Press

Jasper and Scruff by Nicola Colton creates a fabulous new friendship between a cat and a dog! Warm and funny, young readers will love reading about Jasper and Scruff’s adventures. Nicola has created some brilliant illustration activities, so children can have a go at recreating this wonderful duo themselves. Book 3 in the series publishes next month, in the meantime you can watch a drawalong with Nicola here. Published by Little Tiger.

Poetry

The incomparable A F Harrold selected the poems in Midnight Feasts, illustrated by Katy Riddell. Shortlisted for the CLiPPA 2020 award, there is a full teaching sequence available from CLPE. Rather brilliantly you can also watch A F Harrold perform poems from the book via his website. A great way to keep children entertained and introduce them to the wonderful world of poetry. Published by Bloomsbury

Middle Grade

Wilde by Eloise Williams was definitely one of my favourite reads of 2020. A contemporary fantasy story, you can read my full review here. Author Eloise, the inaugural Welsh Children’s Laureate , has put together a whole host of creative writing activities and there is a resource pack available here. The pack includes story extracts, Shakespeare and illustration activities – ideal for building on the imagination brought to life in the story! Published by Firefly Press.

After the War by Tom Palmer is another triumph in accessible, historical fiction for author Tom, who has worked tirelessly to support Holocaust Memorial Day. This story is utterly moving – read my full review here – focusing on the lives of three Jewish boys rescued from a concentration camp. Tom has produced multiple teaching resources, video content and creative writing support and whilst Holocaust Memorial Day itself may have passed, the messages around After the War are relevant every day. Visit his website to find out more. Published by Barrington Stoke.

I absolutely adored Land of Roar by Jenny McLachlan and revisiting Roar in the sequel, Return to Roar. Author Jenny was previously a teacher and has created some inspiring, imaginative resources to encourage creativity including videos to make your own fantasy-land map, characters and fantasy poo!! There’s also a treasure hunt and ideas for bringing Roar to life at home and in the classroom. Great all round! Published by Egmont.

Faber Booktime is a fantastic resource featuring readings and activities from a huge variety of children’s authors – Chris Mould, Emma Carroll, Swapna Haddow & Sheena Dempsey and many more. Great for storytime and encouraging creativity in young storytellers. Find out more

Puffin Schools features multiple resource packs, one-off activities and video draw-alongs, storytime and the Puffin Storymakers Show. Search for an author or Puffin title to find an activity for your young readers – think Wimpy Kid, Jacqueline Wilson, Roald Dahl and other classroom favourites. Great for supporting literacy but also brilliant for encouraging reading for pleasure! Find out more.

These are just a few of the many and varied book-related resources that creative folk and their publishers have put together to help home-learning. Following #readingrocks, #edutwitter, #kidlit and of course #homelearning, will shine a light on others. And make sure you follow your children’s favourite authors, illustrators, poets and publishers on social media to keep a track of the live events and new content being published.