LONG LIST REVIEW: Mrs Noah's Pockets

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As the rain falls, Mr Noah starts to build an ark. He feels it will be an ideal opportunity to 'tidy up the world a bit' so he makes two lists: one for all the animals who will sail on it and one for all the 'troublesome creatures' he will leave behind.Having seen this, Mrs Noah smiles,  gets out her sewing machine and starts stitching.

Just before boarding, Mrs Noah went for one last walk into Mythico Woods, wearing the brand new coat she had made with very deep pockets- lots of pockets. And then the water lifted the ark and all on it and it drifted away. Eventually, it came to rest on the tip of a mountain where all the animals spilled out onto the land and Mrs Noah wandered off into some nearby woods where she carefully emptied her pockets of all the creatures she had saved and set them free, two-by-two, into the new land. 

In 'Mrs Noah's Pockets', the lyrical prose and vibrant illustrations work in perfect harmony to produce a book of great quality and beauty. Jackie Morris and James Mayhew have taken this familiar Bible story and made it their own, developing the distinctive personalities of Mr Noah and his wife and explaining why, when he had the chance to rid the world of annoying creatures like wasps and flies, he didn't. Except it isn't these creatures Mrs Noah has saved- it is the creatures of myth and legend which pour from her pockets in all their glory, enriching the Earth.

The story is perfect for reading aloud and sharing whist the listener(s) enjoys discovering all the details on the illustrations. There is so much potential for using a book like this with a class- the illustrations alone could be used to inspire art lessons, using various techniques to create Mrs Noah's coat, the ark and the fabulous mythical creatures she saves. There is also much to explore around each character's motivation- is Mr Noah right to rid the earth of 'troublesome creatures'? Should Mrs Noah have saved them? Should there be room on the earth for everything to live together? Should anyone have the right to make those decisions and impose them on others? All of this lends itself to speaking and listening opportunities, writing in various genres and so on. 

Wonderful stuff- the essence of reading for pleasure!

Mrs Noah's Pockets  by Jackie Morris, illustrated by James Mayhew

Otter-Barry Books      ISBN: 978-1910959091



Sarah Lean- School Visits


Last week, four of our member schools were lucky enough to have a visit from Sarah Lean. Sarah's new book, 'The Sand Dog' is a lovely story, beautifully written.

Set in the Mediterranean, Azi is struggling to cope with the disappearance of his grandfather. He is living with his uncle, who runs a busy tourist restaurant on the beach and Azi helps out as much as he can, but he is not really interested. His heart lies with finding his grandfather and the beauty of the sea and the island he lives on. Azi takes the appearance of nesting sea turtles and a stray dog to be two signs that his grandfather will return and he starts looking for the third, final sign. But, as Azi finds out more about his grandfather's leaving, so he uncovers more and more secrets about his own past.


Azi is a wonderful character- kind and considerate, steadfastly loyal to his grandfather. The relationship he develops with the dog, Sandy, and the young tourist, Beth, are lovely and help him to come to understand what it means to belong and the importance of family. 

The story is rich in detailed description and carefully observed characters, making it a compelling read. Sarah also explores some difficult topics - addiction, family relationships- with great empathy and tact, making this a wonderful story.


The schools that Sarah visited were all delighted by the sessions she held with their children. One head teacher said, "We had a brilliant morning with Sarah. She was very interesting and gave us some good ideas and writing tips. She even stayed on to work with a group after her presentation - a lovely lady."


One teacher said, "What a great morning we had yesterday with Sarah Lean. Her presentation was really helpful for the children as it gave them an insight into her writing process and hooked them in to wanting to read her book." Another commented on how much the children had enjoyed listening to her and how inspired they had been. 


Huge thanks to Sarah for coming to our schools and to Waterstones in Weston for helping  us to organise copies of the books for the Friday visits.

The Sand Dog      Sarah Lean

Harper Collins   ISBN: 978- 0008165819

LONG LIST REVIEW: Rising Stars New Young Voices in Poetry

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This collection of work from five new voices in poetry offers a fantastic range of very individual, distinctive styles. 

The first poet is Ruth Awolola whose writing is warm and inviting. My favourite in this section is 'A Love Letter to the Stars'. It is beautifully composed, evocative of nights spent star gazing. There is so much to discuss and enjoy contained in these lines- such to inspire children to share their own thoughts and perhaps to compose their own 'love letters' to something they feel strongly about. There are many gems to enjoy in this section which has been illustrated by Joe Manners.

Victoria Adukwei Bulley's poems form the next section, illustrated by Riya Chowdhury. Here a range of poetic styles are explored. I love 'Afro Hair Haiku'- a real celebration of personal style and individuality. These poems are full of personal experience and her words linger long after you have finished reading.

Also illustrated by Riya Chowdhury, poems by Abigail Cook come next. Powerfully personal and full of strong images, this is another lovely selection. 'Night-time in the Garden' is my favourite here- beautiful words create such vivid images. 

The fourth poet is Jay Hulme and his work is illustrated by Joe Manners. Here my favourite has to be 'Sunset at Brean Down' as this is somewhere I know very well. The poem captures the power of making small observations- of noticing things and appreciating them. It could easily be enjoyed as a performance piece or to encourage children to observe carefully and use these ideas to build poems of their own.

The final section is of work by Amina Jama, illustrated by Elanor Chuah. There is plenty of food for thought here. 'Pray' is fascinating- ripe for discussing and enjoying, its images are captivating. 

This is such a stunning collection. I have only mentioned one poem from each section, but could easily have commented on many more. These are indeed the rising stars of poetry.

Rising Stars: New Young Voices in Poetry

Ruth Awolola, Victoria Adukwei Bulley, Abigail Cook, Jay Hulme and Amina Jama

illustrated by Riya Chowdhury, Elanor Chuah and Joe Manners

Otter-Barry    ISBN: 978-1910959374