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.

Autumn 2018

Norwich Group Meeting: 22nd November 2018

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For our last meeting of 2018, we visited Saxlingham Nethergate for our termly get together and discuss the books given to our teachers this autumn. Before we got to those, however, we had a general catch up about book awards (the Blue Peter shortlist), the appeal of eBooks vs physical copies (we unanimously agreed we preferred real life books but eReaders are great when you’re taking a trip..!) and Harriet recommended Lucy Mangan’sBookworm (a great excuse to reminisce about some childhood favourite reads!). Thoughts about what the teachers (and their pupils!) thought of the ten books they’d been sent this time…

  • Child I by Steve Tasan

A book which follows a group of undocumented, unaccompanied children in a refugee camp; a very sobering read written from a child’s point of view, with a thread of acceptance running throughout. We discussed the difficulty of reading the book as an adult, i.e. knowing the reality of the situation, and how that clouded our feeling a little.

  • Chicken on the Roof by Matt Goodfellow & Where Zebras Go by Sue Hardy-Dawson

Two poetry books (some schools had one, some had the other!) enjoyed by all; good, easy length, simple enough for children who liked the humor aspect- the rhymes were appealing and made the book approachable. Many of our group have children in their classes who enjoy poetry, so these lighthearted collections were ideal!

  • Bee Boy: Clash of the Killer Queens by Tony De Saulles

The children who read it found it enjoyable, but many of the teachers said that the book wasn’t particularly memorable. It didn’t seem to work especially well as a read aloud, and though it looks accessible (the pictures, and its similarity to Tom Gates or Wimpy Kid), not much happens. That said, we did all agree that it does have a very pro-bees message, and many of us learnt something new about how important they are to the eco-system…!

  • Just Jack by Kate Scott

Short chapters perfect for class reading, though some of the teachers said they weren’t sure whether children would enjoy it, this book was praised for how useful it would be when discussing parental separation or divorce, particularly the impact it can have on younger members of the family.

  • The Wilderness War & To The Edge of the World, both by Julia Green

Two lovely titles c/o Julia Green; Wilderness War has potential to encourage children to get outside, even if our teachers did think it was a little too Enid Blyton-y. To The Edge of the World was well liked; an exciting, adventure-y tale with a narrative which follows the friendship of a boy and girl- a dynamic which was well liked!

  • Pigeon Pi by Meg McLaren

A picture book which the children enjoyed, even if many of the references passed them by. Everyone agreed that the fun, mystery aspect WAS something the children picked up on, but the 1950s noir detective angle was a bit too outside their frames of reference…!

  • The House with Chicken Legs by Sophie Anderson & Grandma Chickenlegs by Geraldine McCaughrean

Two variations on a traditional folk tale (Baba Yaga anyone?) which many of the children found strange and creepy. Though both versions had good illustrations, it was universally agreed that though each were an interesting introduction to the conventions of folk lore, the low-level horror both didn’t go down too well with those who read it…!

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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