Norwich Group Meeting: 5th July 2018
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.
Norwich Group Meeting: 13th March 2018
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…
Norwich Group Meeting: 22nd November 2017
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…
Norwich Group Meeting: 23rd March 2017
This term our Norwich R4P group met at our Norfolk ELS base in Norwich and it was a busy one; over tea and biscuits, seven of us discussed the books given to members at the beginning of the Spring term, some of which were more popular than others…
- A Very Perculiar History (various editions and authors)
We began our meeting by discussing the non-fiction included this term; we’d selected this series to see if children would consider them a worthy alternative to the popular ‘Horrible Histories’ but this wasn’t the case- very few pupils were interested! Our group discussed at length how the titles weren’t accessible enough for young readers and that they weren’t very easy to dip in and out of; usually one of the most popular parts of reading of non-fiction!
- The Dragonsitter by Josh Lacey
This series was very popular with children; a quick read very accessible to young readers and perfect for a short reading session in class. Some liked the email format more than others but it was agreed that it was a nice contrast to diary-style fiction.
- The Marsh Road Mysteries (various) by Elen Caldecott
These were quite popular in our group’s schools; the characters were considered to be incredibly relatable and those children could easily identify with. We also discussed the series’ diversity and how each story focuses on a different member of the book’s group.
- The Wolf Wilder by Katherine Rundell
Quite a sophisticated read loved by staff and enjoyed by those pupils who tackled it; we agreed it was very much a top-end KS2 read. The strong female lead and atmospheric setting were discussed at length, particularly how immersive the story felt whilst reading and how you’re taken straight into the heart of the story.
- Charlie Bone by Jenny Nimmo
Though the series has recently been republished with more up-to-date and appealing covers, the children in the group’s classes weren’t interested in picking this up to read though none of the adults could really put their finger on why. Though we theorised whether the popularity of Harry Potter had overshadowed Nimmo’s series, we did agree that Charlie Bone would make for a great suggested read for those interested in fantasy and magic.
- Cogheart by Peter Bunzl
Another book for top-end KS2 readers, with a very similar feel to Philip Reeves’ ‘Mortal Engines’. The group felt the book had some interesting ideas though lacked context in places and didn’t garner any special reactions from those children who did give it a try.
Below are some reviews from children at Moorlands Primary- for some of this term’s books and those read in past terms!
Below are some additional thoughts from Sara at Attleborough Junior, who was unable to make our meeting but has lots to say about this term’s books:
Despite the promise of the front cover, some of us did not really like this book. We thought that it gets into the story too quickly and for some reason some of us couldn’t get into this one. Some bits were funny, but it just didn’t grab me enough to keep reading. Usually I get lost in a book so this is a shame.
- The Wolf Wilder
Not that keen on this, maybe it was not my type of story. In fact from the beginning it did not make much sense to me and was confusing. Adventure isn’t usually my thing. I like the mystery and scary nature of books.
- Charlie Bone and the Blue Boa
I loved this book! It is great fantasy that is packed full of mysteries and secrets. Charlie, his friends and family all have mystical powers that help them to reveal the mystery of the big toe? Who has caused such havoc? A must-read for boys, girls, brothers, sisters, mums, dads, grannies, grandads….
- Diamonds and Daggers
I liked the way that this book explored wider cultural issues as well as the mystery of whole stole the jewels. I think it could be a great talking point to discuss how difference is often met with suspicion and helping children to see injustice.
- The Dragonsitter
A fairly light-hearted read suitable for children perhaps getting to grips with reading. I like the way that it is written as a series of emails to the Uncle leaving the reader to guess what his replies might be and speculate as to what has happened to him and the relationship between him and his mum.
- Victorian Servants – a Very Peculiar History
This is quite a dip in book, where you can flick through and read extracts that catch your eye and get some interesting facts and personal experiences of life in Victorian times. I like the way that the different sections are divided up in different fonts which definitely makes it more appealing. As a teacher, this book would be good to illustrate lots of writing genres.
Fakenham Meeting, 7th December 2016
Our Fakenham-based group met at the local public library to discuss this term’s books- opinions were varied, and thoughts are below!
The Ghost Prison by Joseph Delaney
A stand alone novella, quite scary and with a gruesome ending. The illustrations by Scott M.Fischer reflect this well. Although this has a suitably spooky cover and ‘ghost’ in the title, and is short, this was not picked up by children.
Extreme Animals (and others in the series) by Nicola Davies, illustrated by Neal Layton
This non-fiction series is unusual in its humour and cartoony illustrations with fun speech bubbles, but nevertheless it imparts a lot of information and there are helpful diagrams. Children enjoyed this, (as did the grown ups), and we will promote the series more on our mobile library.
When Marnie Was There by Joan G. Robinson
Set very specifically in Heacham, this novel first written in 1967, has gained new popularity through the recent acclaimed film version. It is very atmospheric, and this new edition gains extra Norfolk poignancy with the postscript by the author’s daughter. The story feels very contemporary, featuring a lonely foster child who gradually comes out of her shell and gains new confidence and happiness through her new friendship with another girl – who just happens to be a ghost (echoes of Tom’s Midnight Garden). Despite the film and attractive cover this wasn’t picked up.
The River Singers by Tom Moorhouse
This exciting animal story was enjoyed by some mature readers, including boys. A family of water voles have to escape a new enemy, a mink, and the novel includes hair raising adventures and even death. It is enhanced by lovely illustrations.
Out of this World series by Sally Odgers, illustrated by Georgina Thomas
A series specifically aimed at reluctant readers the short sci-fi adventures are written in graphic novel form. Although only in black and white, the pictures are quite easy to ‘read’, and they were popular with readers, not just reluctant ones. Here’s a pupil review:
Norwich Meeting, 8th December 2016
Our Norwich group get-together this term took place at Little Plumstead Primary where Julie graciously hosted us in her wonderful library space. Over tea, coffee, biscuits (& roasted almonds for our sole vegan attendee!), thoughts were shared about the titles given to our group for perusal throughout the Autumn term- see what we discussed below!
Beetle Boy by M.G. Leonard
Though the group were quire partial to the books printed edge (see here– how lovely is that?!) and the story itself, the general consensus was that the children did not seem to want to pick this book up, despite heavy campaigning from their teachers! Suggestions were made as to whether they may have been put off by the book’s size in comparison to the others, or perhaps they felt the orange colour felt old fashioned. We loved it though; a great story with a sequel on the way!
Various books by Mitchell Symons
These non-fiction fact books went down a treat; the schools had been given a variety of titles by the same author and all reported that the children particularly liked these as you digest these in chunks, dipping in and out to share interesting bits of knowledge. Why can’t spacemen burp? It’s to do with the lack of gravity and air-pressure in your tummy, and did you know that the caffeine extracted to make decaffeinated coffee is added to make caffeinated fizzy drinks?
Gormy Ruckles series by Guy Bass
This series by the always funny Guy Bass were really well received by all children; brilliant accessible to all types of readers including those reluctant or less-able. Their short length meant they were easily digestible and children were please they could finish them in a short space of time.
The Nowhere Emporium by Ross MacKenzie
This book was particularly loved by the boys at all of our group’s schools; the cover was considered to be very, very appealing, plus the element of magic (and the fact it’s a little bit gruesome!) made it a huge success. One boy even compared it to an episode of Doctor Who!
A Pair of Jacks series by Michael Lawrence
These books were an interesting take on traditional tales and had varying levels of success; some able year 4s loved it while some less able year 5s struggled.
The Fantastic Flying Books of Mr Morris Lessmore by William Joyce
Our librarian, Harriet, included this wonderful picture book as she wanted to see whether children would love it as much as we adult readers did- unfortunately, this was not the case! Despite the intricacies of the illustrations, it was felt that the period old-timey setting was unappealing to children.
Summer 2016: Our Norwich Group shares some reviews…
Two of our Norwich FDG schools sent us some mini reviews written by some of the pupils with whom they shared last term’s books. We love receiving feedback from young readers- their thoughts are always great to hear (and they’re often very honest!)
Fakenham Group Meeting, 29th June 2016
A small but enthusiastic group met at Fakenham Library on Wednesday, to enjoy cake (thank you, Mandy!) and Scottish shortbread (carried on the train that very day from Edinburgh) to discuss this term’s selection of goodies (books that is, not food!). Below are a few comments from the pupils and grown ups about this term’s titles:
Jack Dash and the Magic Feather by Sophie Plowden
Y 3 and 4 children thought this story was funny and imaginative, even if (or perhaps because!) there were some bizarre happenings. However, despite a good cover, this was not picked up by Y5 and 6 children.
Imagination Box by Martyn Ford
This was really enjoyed by good readers in Y4 who gave it 3 out of 5 stars. There is an underlying theme of adoption, which feels slightly added on. Discussion of quantum physics gives it an interesting scientific slant, though how much of it is remotely realistic is way beyond our limited knowledge.
Me, the Queen and Christopher by Giles Andreae and Tony Ross
The children from Sandringham and West Newton Primary enjoyed this story very much, especially those in Y2 onwards. It is fun, silly but with a message about inclusivity done with a light touch.
Danger is (still) Everywhere: a Handbook for Avoiding Danger by David O’Doherty
David O’Doherty is a comedian and recent research shows that boys in particular respond well to comedy as it can be a powerful stimulus for writing. This title was popular, one child gave it 4.5 stars out of 5. Is this book an attempt to counteract our current risk averse culture for children? If so it manages to succeed in a very funny way. The amusing drawings and hand lettering are by Chris Judge. This is the second title, following a similar format to the first.
Let in the Stars: new poetry for children edited by Mandy Coe
Some of these poems were baffling for children and may work better for teens. However they did enjoy one called: “The end of year six”- it’s that time of year! Attractive artwork and cover, from the Manchester School of Art, this award-winning anthology of modern poets was compiled by published poets at Manchester Metropolitan University, and endorsed by Carol Ann Duffy.
Pocketful of Murder by R. J. Anderson
This is quite long and best suited to upper KS2 and was enjoyed by those who read it. It is a good mystery story with a feisty girl lead and a mysterious boy. Their magical abilities don’t add much to the story, but the religious beliefs of the main character’s family are an important element throughout, though this theme was not picked up by young readers.
The Boy, the Bear, the Baron and the Bard by Gregory Rogers
The only picture book in this selection, and wordless too- children were really enthralled by this book! They had to work hard to follow the story from the pictures, really looking at what was depicted in the illustrations. It worked very well this term with the topical link to Shakespeare’s birthday.