Bookshelf Special Days

National Poetry Day 2019

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What better way to celebrate National Poetry Day 2019 than with another look at our fabulous Poetry shortlist! We had a wonderful assembly today with lots of staff sharing their favourite poems- the children loved it and were really buzzing about poetry. The children will get their turn in another assembly where they can share their favourite poems if they would like to.

So here’s another look at each of the four poetry books on the 2019 shortlist- and our lovely pooches, Mungo and Lady. Each is perfect for using in school and will inspire lots of poetry fun and creation!

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A Year of Nature Poems by Joseph Coelho, illustrated by Kelly Louise Judd

Wide Eyed ISBN: 978-1786035820

This is a beautiful picture of nature through the year in poems.. Each of the twelve verses has a short introduction, commenting on the content. January’s poem is based on the legend of two murmurations of starlings which battle in the sky above the City of Cork. Others stem from personal memories- collecting tadpoles, of holidays, childhood games in the snow. Rich in imagery, the love of nature and its wonders shines through the collection which is complemented by Kelly Louise Judd’s lovely illustrations.

Any of these poems could be used as a starting point for work in the classroom, developing children’s responses to nature, encouraging them to explore the world around them and play with words.

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Perfectly Peculiar Pets by Elli Woollard, illustrated by Anja Boretzki

Bloomsbury ISBN: 978-1472958464

This is a fun, light-hearted alphabet of poems celebrating a collection of unexpected pets. From the aardvark bought in Amarillo to the mighty fine zebra, there is a marvellous menagerie of creatures in this book. The poems offer plenty of wordplay and poetic devices to enjoy, discuss and imitate. Many of these poems lend themselves brilliantly to performing as a class or individually. They have a tongue-twisery feel to them which children truly enjoy; ‘S for slugs’ or ‘M for Millipede’ are great examples of this! Being an unusual collection of creatures allows children to find out about some lesser known animals like the quokka or the toucan, the yak or the kookaburra. They could create their own poems about creatures they consider to be ‘perfectly peculiar pets’- what about the pink lesser fairy armadillo or the numbat?

At the back of the book is a treasure trove of tips for writing poems of your own, explaining ideas clearly. Illustrated throughout, this is a very enjoyable, varied collection of poems.

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A Kid in My Class Rachel Rooney illustrated by Chris Riddell

Otter-Barry Books ISBN: 978-1910959879

This is a wonderful collection of poems about all the different ‘types’ of children that might make up a class- even a few adults and the class hamster are included. The poems seem to be told from the perspective of classmates and vary in styles, length and tone. Some are funny, others poignant, but each offers much to discuss. The author’s note reminds us that ‘We’re likely to be a mixture of several of them- and more besides.’ and children are sure to recognise themselves and others in these poems. Each poem is accompanied by a pencil sketch of the child and a cartoon illustrating the character depicted in the verse.

Perfect for sharing and enjoying, the book also contains poems which could be used as models for the children’s own. ‘Fidget’ is written in kennings and it could be great fun for children to reflect on themselves in this way. ’Talking Hands’ is a beautiful poem describing a conversation between a hearing and non-hearing child. As each teacher knows and understands their class, choices about which poems to use and how to use them can be made. An invaluable collection!

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I Am a Jigsaw: Puzzling Poems to Baffle Your Brain by Roger Stevens,

illustrated by Spike Gerrell

Bloomsbury ISBN: 978-1472958198

A poetry book of two parts, ‘I Am a Jigsaw’ contains both a wonderful collection of ‘riddles in rhyme’ and advice on how to write puzzle poems. A wealth of different types of poems from a range of poets is included, many of which would be great fun to explore in class. ‘Find Me’ by Liz Brownlee, for example, is a great example of a traditional puzzle poem where the reader has to identify the letters needed to solve the puzzle. This would be an excellent model to use to inspire children to create their own examples. Catherine Benson’s ‘The Seashore’ leads the reader through a series of puzzles, each describing an element of the seaside- seaweed, a crab, a starfish… an excellent example of using descriptive language and choosing words carefully, this could produce some fabulous work in class, either as group or individual efforts. There are many examples to choose from in this invaluable selection!

The book has the additional benefit of part two which offers advice on how to write puzzle poems, acknowledging that for some this form sits ‘on the edge of what is and isn’t poetry’. This guidance is perfect for teacher, parent or child- anyone interested in having a go at penning a puzzle poem!

HAPPY POETRY DAY!

Oxford Reading Spree

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Today, for my post-SATs treat, I went to Larkrise Primary School for this year’s Oxford Reading Spree- a wonderful celebration of reading and children’s literature. It was great to meet up with so many familiar faces and to meet some new ones.

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Ed Finch started the day by welcoming us all to his school and making sure we all knew the essential information for the day- like where the Roving Bookshop could be found.

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The first speaker was Simon Smith, a familiar name on Twitter. He had spoken at Oxford Reading Spree in 2017 so it was great to hear from him again. Having set the scene about his school and its location, he then spoke passionately about reading comprehension (not the test kind!), the importance of teachers selecting the books they use with their children, how guided reading is vital to developing reading and of the importance of picture books for everyone. Plenty of music to my ears!

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Nicki Cleveland then ranted (very nicely!) about the importance of libraries- both school and public- and the vital role they- and librarians - play. Her dedication to and enthusiasm for her role were evident and she used plenty of evidence to support her points. It is truly shocking to know that libraries are statutory in prisons, but not in schools, meaning we have ‘children growing up in the UK who stand a better chance of having access to books if they are convicted of a crime than attending their primary school’. Having discussed the benefits of having a school library, she then appealed to the audience for help by submitting case studies to the Great School Libraries website. (Find out more here.)

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Next, Ian Eagleton reflected on his ‘Reading River’. His very moving and gently humorous session looked at his experiences growing up and how he was constantly looking for characters who reflected him in books when he was a teenager. He finished his session with a poem he had written called ‘The Army of Teachers’.

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All this bookish wonder- and it was only coffee time! After a quick break (involving a trip to the bookshop!), we returned to the hall to hear from Ceri Eccles (@Teacherglitter) who was full of enthusiasm and ideas for ‘books and hooks’, including a wonderful severed arm belonging to Grendel! You had to see it to believe it!

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Nick Swarbrick led a very entertaining and thought-provoking session about what children shouldn’t read- texts which cross boundaries or are concerned with topics which attitudes have changed towards. He questioned whether some texts are engaging for or relevant to children… He certainly offered a lot of food for thought!

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Just before lunch, we were treated to a wonderful story with Adam and Charlotte Guillain, who were making the case for humour and rhyme in books. They were running one of the workshops in the afternoon as well.

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After lunch, I was lured to Simon Smith’s session by the promise of lots of books- and indeed there were books a-plenty. Simon challenged everyone to think about who they should be shared with, when and why. He emphasised the need for teachers to know the books they are using- and the children they are using them with and to be mindful of all the things we don’t know about our pupils. At this time, Jo Cummins (@BookSuperhero2) held a workshop about the ‘serious side of funny books’ and the Guillains spoke about the ‘importance of unimportant books’. It was hard to choose where to go!

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Once settled back in the hall, the head of Ryefield Primary School, Mr Tucker, told us about all the wonderful things he and his staff have been getting up to to engage their pupils with books and reading. I loved the alien tablets and am wondering how soon I can plagiarise his idea, subtly passing it off as my own!

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The day ended with Bob Cox talking about the importance of using high quality texts. He shared many examples of children’s work inspired by using such work and his enthusiasm and energy were a great way of finishing the day!

Exhausting, but very enjoyable, this year’s Oxford Reading Spree was another great success- I’m already looking forward to next year! Many thanks to Ed Finch and his team for organising such an enjoyable day!

Please excuse the quality of the photos- all of the speakers were very animated and moved around a lot!
































Oxford Literary Festival 2019

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Today, I enjoyed the beautiful spring sunshine in Oxford for the festival. Last year, I drove through snow to get here; this year, it was fog, but by the time I arrived it was a lovely day.

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I spent some very happy time in Blackwell’s which I absolutely adore. No book was left unturned in my quest to add to the amazing selection of suggestions we already have for this year’s awards. The staff were so lovely and friendly and the time flew by!

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My first event was at St Cross College where David Fickling, Dan Freedman and Candy Gourlay were discussing what makes a great children’s book. The setting was lovely- the college courtyard looking beautiful in the sunshine.

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David Fickling is one of the most inspirational, enthusiastic people I think I have ever had the pleasure of listening to. His passion for good stories and his pride in his ‘village’ of a publishing house was infectious and no one could doubt the warmth and mutual respect between him and his authors.

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Dan Freedman explained how he had never really seen the point of writing until he realised that he could make a career of watching sport and writing about it as a sport journalist. The led eventually to his writing his Jamie Johnson books, a hugely popular football based series. He then spoke about his new book, published by David Fickling, called ‘Unstoppable’. Focusing on twins with very different sporting dreams , it is a gripping read which follows the many obstacles and complications which they face. Dan read two short extracts, one focusing on each twin. ‘Unstoppable’ will be reviewed very soon.

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Candy Gourlay was completely captivating as she spoke about her childhood in the Philippines and how she came to reading and then to writing. Her latest novel, ‘Bone Talk’ has just been shortlisted for the Carnegie award and she explained how she had come to write about the Bontoc people and the American invasion of the Philippines. Candy was fascinating to listen to and ‘Bone Talk’ is a must read which I reviewed for Reading Zone a while ago. I will post my review here soon.

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It was a fascinating session for everyone!

Unstoppable Dan Freedman

David Fickling Books ISBN: 978-1788450492

Bone Talk Candy Gourlay

David Fickling Books ISBN: 978-1788450188