Old Barn Books


All 80 titles for the six categories of our long list have now been reviewed! Each and every one a fantastic book, highly recommended by JAB and the NSTAB team.

The short list will be announced on the 8th September. Votes from the panel are already coming in so here's a little reminder of the twelve fabulous books on the Moving On Category Long List.


The Polar Bear Explorers' Club- Alex Bell (Faber and Faber)


Twister- Juliette Forrest (Scholastic)


The Care and Feeding of a Pet Black Hole- Michelle Cuevas     (Simon and Schuster) 


Ella on the Outside- Cath Howe (Nosy Crow)

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Tin - Padraig Kenny (Chicken House)

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Running on Empty- S E Durrant (Nosy Crow)


The Children of Castle Rock- Natasha Farrant (Faber and Faber)


 Kick- Mitch Johnson (Usborne)


The Eye of the North- Sinead O'Hart (Stripes)


Charlie and Me – Mark Lowery (Piccadilly)


How to Bee- Bren MacDibble (Old Barn Books)

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Herstory  Katherine Halligan  (Nosy Crow)

Which four of these fabulous books will make it to the short list?



In a world without bees, children are employed to pollinate the precious crops with feathers full of pollen. Others- those not yet ten or the not so nimble and quick- spend their time killing the bugs which might damage the fruit. 'Lessons' are sometimes broadcast over loudspeakers whilst the children are working, but they receive little education. The fruits of their labours are sent for the rich.city folk to enjoy. This is Peony's world- she's poor and her life is hard, yet she is happy with Gramps and Magnolia (her sister) living in their shack. Her mother, however, has different ideas and has left her children to go to the city in the hope of making a better life.

Abducted by her mother and forced to go and work in the city, Peony's life is turned upside down and she is determined to return to the world she knows and loves.

Set in a dystopian world, 'How to Bee' offers an alarming glimpse at a possible future for us all where bees are extinct. It is a divided society, a world of haves and have-nots, with child labour the norm. Bren MacDibble intertwines Peony's harsh existence with that of Esmeralda, the rich girl whose household she finds herself working in, allowing the reader to see the vast distance between their lives- and yet find the positives in both worlds. 

It is a dark picture, yet Peony's irrepressible, optimistic character shines through. She is a real joy and her outlook on life is wonderful. In the midst of poverty and hardship, she enjoys the warmest family relationships with her grandfather and sister and shows incredible loyalty to her mother in spite of everything.  Always ready to assist others, she takes no nonsense from Ez, yet she recognises her need and puts her own problems aside to help. Esmeralda's parents enjoy a warm, loving relationship in stark contrast to the abusive nature of Peony's Ma and her latest man, the 'Ape'. 

'How to Bee' is a moving, intelligent novel, offering plenty of food for thought and a cast of appealing- and not so appealing- characters which linger with you long after the story is finished, making it perfect for our Moving On category.

How to Bee  Bren MacDibble

Old Barn Books     ISBN: 978-1910646441

You can read another review of 'How to Bee' here.



The Wardrobe Monster


Today and tomorrow, some of our schools are lucky enough to have visits from Bryony Thomson. Her debut picture book, 'The Wardrobe Monster' is just delightful and this evening, Bryony was kind enough to speak to Book Group as well.


Bryony told us how important being read to as a child was for her and how hr writing is rooted in her ow experiences. At her boarding school- an old building full of creaks at night- meant that she was often scared at night and, sure she was not alone in this, wanted to write a book exploring these feelings. 'The Wardrobe Monster' is full of wonderful characters - each one based on someone in Bryony's life. My favourite- Penguin- is based on her dad! 


Before reading us the story, Bryony told us all about how she had developed the story from her initial sketches to a mock-up mini book. Everyone was fascinated! 


We then had great fun creating a monster, with Bryony drawing and us suggesting what it should look like. We were quite proud of our creation and look forward to seeing what the children come up with tomorrow. 


After lots of questions, the session ended and we all agreed it had been a very special session which we all really enjoyed. 

Thank you so much to Bryony for joining us. 

The Wardrobe Monster  Bryony Thomson

Old Barn Books   ISBN:  978-1910646366