Just About Books

The North Somerset Teachers' Book Award

It was a pleasure to welcome so many authors and publishers to our award ceremony a few weeks ago. It was especially nice to sit in a relaxed setting and discuss with them their books, the process of writing and publishing.

Everyone that attended came away buzzing - for our authors and publishers, it had been a moment of hard earned recognition gratefully received and for the book group, a moment to sit and celebrate the best in children's literature whilst sitting along side some of our new literary heroes!

It was a joy filled moment handing out each award and to see them so gratefully received and treasured!

Tom Moorhouse, author of 'The River Singers', was so thrilled. This was his first award and we could all tell just how much this meant to him.

There was an audible gasp from Anneliese as her book was announced as the winner of the poetry category and she practically skipped up to receive her award.

It was evident talking with Annaliese later how much the award meant to her. She lives and breaths poetry and speaks of words as the rhythm of life.

The process of publishing had been a long and difficult road for her as her book lies within the worlds of both poetry and non-fiction. The North Somerset Teachers’ Book Award  was clearly the recognition of the quality of her work that Anneliese, her publishers and each member of the book award reading group saw in this superb book!

Sam Gayton, author of ‘Hercufleas’, the winner of the read aloud category, was just as charming in person as the characters in his stories. Playing with the children and pulling silly faces, he was relaxed and joy to be around.

He was truly grateful for the recognition his book was receiving and the work that the North Somerset Teachers' Book Award is doing to promote great children’s literature.

We missed not having all of our winning authors attend the award ceremony. The authors of 'Maps' ,Aleksandra Mizielinska and Daniel Mizielinski, winners of the non-fiction category had not been able to travel from their home in Poland and author, Tracey Corderoy and illustrator, Steven Lenton had previously committed to other engagements meaning they too, could not attend.

However, all was completely forgiven when we read the gorgeous post written by Tracey on her Nosy Crow blog. She spoke of how thrilled she was her book ‘Shifty McGifty and Slippery Sam’ had won the picture book category and recognised the valuable work the North Somerset Teachers’ Book Award group is doing to develop life long readers. She spoke of her own childhood and the powerful effect her own teachers had had on her desire to become a writer, simply through providing her with quality children’s literature!

As members of the book group we are overjoyed that our awards were so gratefully received. 

And now we return to our classrooms and libraries where each of these gorgeous books will be shared and treasured and to our reading nooks where we will be searching for next year’s winners of the North Somerset Teachers’ Book Award!

Beowulf by Kevin Crossley-Holland and Charles Keeping

Published by Oxford University Press (ISBN: 978-0192723697) 

This is a story of a hero- a true hero- who made his way across the seas to fight and defeat monsters. First recorded by the Anglo-Saxons, this is the story of Beowulf, beautifully re-told by Kevin Crossley-Holland, whose use of language never fails to delight and inspire.

Teaching the Anglo-Saxons? Then this is the perfect text to share with your class. Not teaching the Anglo-Saxons? Then this is the perfect text to share with your class!

The saga of Beowulf and his heroic deeds is so powerful and exciting that it makes an excellent read. Kevin Crossley- Holland’s amazing knowledge and understanding of the period also means that the essence of the time and place is maintained, using literary devices of the original. Be warned- the story of Beowulf is gruesome- and both the illustrations and text remain true to this.

Taken purely as a story, this is the classic overcoming the monster plot. Grendel rises from his evil lair and attacks King Hrothgar and his people; Beowulf is the hero who arrives to defeat this monster. He then has to face Grendel’s mother. Later, a new challenge arises… The plot structure is excellent for inspiring children- particularly boys- and we re-told the story using Pie Corbett style gestures before the children took the challenge to become the story teller themselves, embellishing and developing their own language choices.  There are so many reading, writing and speaking and listening possibilities that you have to choose carefully- writing in role, exploring and using kennings, persuasive writing in a number of forms, discussion- oral and written, research work, hot seating, freeze framing, using inference and deduction… the list goes on! The language itself is challenging and can be used to explore word origins and for developing vocabulary. Sentence structures would also provide the opportunity for modelling and developing the children’s technical writing.

Used alongside a history topic, Beowulf provides many details about the period and is, of course, of the period in this re-telling.  There are many versions of this story- from comic strip to film, some of which might be used in comparison- but, to my mind, this is the most powerful. What a read!

Is There A Dog in this Book? by Viviane Schwarz

Published by Walker  (ISBN: 978-1406345612)

This book sees the return of those three fabulous felines who appear in There are Cats in this Book and There are No Cats in this Book. In this story, the cats smell something odd and spend their time trying to hide from the dog who has found its way onto their book.

The beauty of these books is how interactive they are, with flaps and tabs that develop the ‘action’ page by page. Each cat has a well-defined personality and the illustrations work perfectly with the simple text. Children can follow, and join in with, the cats as they realise that the dog is not something to be scared of after all. 

Children would definitely be inspired to create their own stories based around these cats or animals of their own creation. They could be encouraged to develop the interactivity of these along the lines of the original or using wheels, pop ups, etc. These could be designed for younger siblings/children and then shared. 

The story contains a clear message about how we shouldn’t jump to conclusions or make assumptions about others. Two of the cats have decided that they do not like dogs and that they need to hide; the third is more open-minded! There is the opportunity for much discussion building on the story.

Great fun!