Fiction Discussion Groups

Welcome to our new Fiction Discussion Group page. Here we’ll be posting recaps straight from our KS2 FDG meetings which take place once an academic term. In advance of our meetings, Teachers are given a set of KS2 fiction (and sometimes non-fiction) to read and discuss with their class. It’s a great way to discuss new and old children’s fiction and to find out whether children’s views differ from our own.

For more information or to join our group, please get in touch. Any write-ups of past meetings will be kept in our Fiction Discussion Group archive here.

Summer 2018

Norwich Group Meeting: 5th July 2018

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For our summer term meeting, we headed to White Woman Lane School, to congregate in their very special library bus. We began by discussing recent book award wins, upcoming award shortlists, and Empathy Day, while also sharing what else we’d been reading lately. After that, we moved on to talk about this term’s books and just what the teachers (and their classes!) thought of them…

  • The Extraordinary Colours of Auden Dare by Zillah Bethell

The group agreed this book was best suited to those aged 10+, and would be good for facilitating empathy discussion; the blurb didn’t give an indicator that it had a sci-fi theme, though this wasn’t necessarily a bad thing. The adults who read it really enjoyed its slightly dystopian take, though the children didn’t seem that interested.

  • Charlie and Me: 421 Miles from Home by Mark Lowery

An interesting premise and quite a heartbreaking read- found to be a real tearjerker by some! Several of the group commented on how it was quite a compelling, quick read which still keeps you guessing all the way through.

  • Sky Song by Abi Elphinstone

This book was very well liked by all; a fast-paced adventure with a message of loyalty and friendship, as well as underlining themes which look at tolerance and understanding. The group discussed the relationship between Flint and his sister, the subtle inclusion of disability, and how the story depicts positively the benefits of working together. The children who read the book really enjoyed it too!

  • Secret Diary Stories by Philip Ardagh, illustrated by Jamie Littler

The group were given varying titles from this National Trust-endorsed series by Philip Ardagh; John Drawbridge: Medieval Knight in Training and Jane Pinny: a Victorian House Maid. All felt the books appealed to children who like facts and history, and worked best as a read alone rather than a read aloud. However, the inclusion of footnotes felt a bit complex for young readers, and some classes didn’t pick up on many of the jokes.

  • Thimble Monkey Superstar by Jon Blake, illustrated by Martin Chatterton

Children LOVED the slapstick element in this one and it also worked well as a read aloud- fun for the class to hear. The group agreed that the book is “meaty” enough without being too challenging and had great characterization. This was another with subtle disability inclusion, which the group all agreed was brilliant.

  • The Cat and the King by Nick Sharratt

Nick Sharratt is an illustrator whose work the group really like (and one who the children recognise!), so the inclusion of this- his first novel- was well received and deemed to work really well with children, who liked it a lot. It was a very accessible story; good for lower KS2 but still a “proper” book.

  • Wed Wabbit by Lissa Evans

This was VERY well received by adults and children alike; a great story, good for reading aloud. Cleverly constructed with lots of twists, several of the children who read it said it was very unlike anything they’d read before and would often recommend it to their friends to read once they’d finished. Best suited for top-end KS2.

  • Battle Bunny by  Jon Scieszka, illustrated by Matthew Myers

A very very clever book indeed! Recommended by staff at Moorlands Primary, the group agreed it would be best suited to older children as there’s lots to interpret visually. We also discussed how it would be brilliant for use in class and could make a great starting point for a wider look at decoding texts and how books can often have layered meanings.

Spring 2018

Norwich Group Meeting: 13th March 2018

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Our Norwich R4P group met at our Norfolk ELS base in Norwich and- as usual- over tea and biscuits, we discussed the books given to members at the beginning of the Spring term, and the reactions they gained from children in their classes. Some of their thoughts are below:

  • They didn’t teach this at Worm School by Simone Lia.

In which Marcus the worm and Laurence the chicken form an unlikely partnership. Full of fun and lively illustrations, it was popular with all ages.

“I loved it! It was the best book ever!” John aged 7, similarly Olive

“I loved the hilarious bird Laurence and Marcus the worm. I love the book so much I want to get it for myself.” Lily aged 8

“I liked the bit where Laurence thought that he was a flamingo” Farrah aged 8

“I was amazed by how anyone could make a book like this book it was funny, silly and cool.” Harrison aged 8

  • The Secret Horses of Briar Hill by Megan Shepherd, illustrated by Levi Pinfold

Set in WW2 this is a sad, gentle story set in a children’s tb sanatorium in the countryside. The imagination of Emmeline is beautifully brought to life by Pinfold’s atmospheric drawings, but the story itself didn’t appeal to our readers other than horse-mad girls.

  • Lost Tales by Adam Murphy

Graphic novel versions of myths and legends, this didn’t get picked up as much as we had hoped, but one year 5 girl “loved it”.

  • Knighthood for Beginners by Elys Dolan

This is Dolan’s first novel after creating brilliantly funny picture books for older readers. It links Dave the dragon who wants to be a brave knight, with Albrecht, a German speaking goat (yes really!). The story is mad but it does have a nice friendship theme, and is packed full of black and white illustrations.

“Funny but not that funny” was the verdict of one young reader, and we wonder if the humour is maybe a bit sophisticated for the reading age intended? Grown-ups thought it was hilarious.

  • Kick by Mitch Johnson

Local bookseller Mitch Johnson has written an impressive debut for top KS2/KS3 readers, about a football mad boy who works in a football boot factory in Jakarta. His passion comes across powerfully, as does the dangerous existence of the poor community he lives in, with corruption and crime all around. There are many sad moments, but it ends on a hopeful note.

The adults enjoyed this more than the children; it may need some adult intervention and introduction, and would be a good read aloud in class, with lots of discussion.

Some feedback from the children who read the books…

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Autumn 2017

Norwich Group Meeting: 22nd November 2017

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Our group met in the lovely library of Little Plumstead Primary and the seven of us relished the opportunity to catch-up, discussing recent and upcoming book awards including the Carnegie list of nominations which had been announced a few weeks before. We also (of course!) discussed the books given to members at the beginning of term, and the feedback given by their classes.

  • Thunderstruck by Ali Sparkes

Our group’s children had been very excited to read this; they felt it was quite scary, fast-paced with lots of action. Ali Sparkes generally seems to be quite popular, as she writes reliably exciting stories.

  • Oranges in No Man’s Land by Elizabeth Laird

The children who read it seemed to enjoy it and went on to read other books by the same author, but generally it wasn’t picked up by all. Laird is a highly emotive writer, great empathy-inducing tales with interesting back stories and some children were very intrigued by that.

  • Just Call Me Spaghetti-Hoop Boy by Lara Williamson

Enjoyed but several members of the group felt it was overlong and a bit tedious- could have done with an edit! The pacing was also deemed slow; some gave up midway through reading. The book itself is very attractive; great cover and orange sprayed edges.

  • Animals Behaving Badly by Nicola Davies

A different way of presenting non-fiction; doesn’t resemble usual non-fiction children are used to, so it’s quite accessible to those who wouldn’t pick-up those types of books. It’s easily digestible with good illustrations by Adam Stower which appealed to the children- plus some even learnt something!

  • How to be a Tiger by George Szirtes 

Some poetry, good for dipping in and out of. Simple, accessible with a nice cover- great for quick reading to the whole class.

  • Jolley-Rogers series by Jonny Duddle

Many children found these titles recognisable because of the illustrator’s picture books. Quick, easy read, good for newly independent readers.

Some feedback from the children who read the books…

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