Sunday, 23 June 2019

Book Review: 'The Adventures of Harry Stevenson' by Ali Pye

Adults love to recommend children's books. But what do kids actually think about them? For this review I decided to get my daughter's thoughts as well as give my own. And it only seemed right to let my daughter (who is in year 2) share her thoughts first:

Harry is a guinea pig who is always getting lost. Billy and Harry are best friends who always tell each other everything.

At Billy's birthday party Harry floats away and although he is scared he is determined to get back to Billy.

This book is about friendship, finding your feet and it talks a lot about a football team called 'The Sparky F.C'.

The illustrations of Harry are really cute and they are really interesting to look at.

It is simple enough for 7-11s to read but definitely entertaining.

Harry Stevenson is a really good book and it is very enjoyable to read!

And here's my review:

Harry Stevenson is a guinea pig - of course he is, what else would he be with such a name? Harry lives with Billy and is pretty much his best friend and confidant. In this new book from author and illustrator Ali Pye we get not one, but two of Harry's charming and barmy adventures.

In the first story, Billy and his family move house and in a bizarre twist of fate (or twist of the cage's latch) Harry gets left behind. Of course, he finds his way back but not without severely spooking a dog, having a close shave with a cat and ending up in a box of pizza (which he doesn't even eat as he sticks closely to a proper guinea pig diet).

The second story also sees Harry let loose in the outside, this time in an even more crazy set of circumstances - Ali Pye's illustration of a beat up VW van in hot pursuit of an airborne rodent is one I'd love to have a print of!

Speaking of the illustrations, their screenprint-style of limited, but bright, colour palette are what makes the book immediately appealing - so much so that when my copy arrived it was promptly removed from my shelf and read within a 24 hour period by my 7 year old daughter.

Once the illustrations have hooked in their readers young and old, all will delight in the warmly told stories of a boy and his guinea pig. Pye opens up the mind of a devoted pet and confirms what everyone who keeps an animal secretly hopes - that they completely understand their humans and their complicated lives and love them unconditionally. Harry's mixture of wisdom (when it comes to how Billy must be feeling about loving house, starting a new school and hoping that his football team win) and daftness (when he dreams he's eating spaghetti but is in fact chewing the strings of helium balloons) is quite delightful!

Unlike many books aimed at this age range (I'd say 6-9ish), it's one that will appeal to grown ups as well as children. It's funny without being silly, or rude, and far-fetched in such a heart-warming way that no one could dislike it! It falls into the category of 'great books to introduce children to reading chapter books', of which I've not yet read enough - thanks Ali for writing a good one!

Sunday, 16 June 2019

Book Review: 'The Longest Night of Charlie Noon' by Christopher Edge

Thinking back on this book there are certain things which I'm really unsure of: when was it actually set? I'd assumed here and now, but as I've thought about the mind-bending events of the story I'm now not so sure. Did some of it occur in the imagination or were there actually slips in time? A book that keeps you thinking long after you've read the last page has got to be a book worth reading.

In fact, the questions it leaves you with really give you no option but to read it again. As someone with a To Be Read pile that takes up an entire bookshelf (and that's just the children's books) re-reading is not usually an option, but in this case I think I'll have to. The knowledge that Christopher Edge has put together one of his playlists to accompany the book is another point in favour of picking up this excellent novel again, especially as it contains The Cure, Paul Weller, Beastie Boys, James, The Kinks... the list goes on.

Charlie and Dizzy are lost in the woods, looking for some strange symbols that they think might be clues as to who lives in the woods - is it spies, or is it monsters? Or is it Old Crony? And Jonny, the school bully, has ended up with them too. But as night falls (or does it?) things begin to get strange. Trippy even. And suddenly the book is kind of a World War 2 novel - but not one like you've ever read before.

The children experience strange things which are genuinely quite scary - nightmares become a kind of questionable reality where neither the characters or the reader can quite understand what is going on. However, Edge has written it cleverly enough for readers to begin to build up a picture of what might be going on - especially those who have some background knowledge of theories about time, Greek mythology and World War 2. But for those who don't know what's going on, nearly all is explained - perhaps that second read-through will reveal all, though?

And it's not just the intrigue of the plot that makes this such a captivating read - the writing itself is so evocative. I would defy anyone not to feel transported to those woods with those children on that night:

"Above our heads comes a sudden hushing of leaves, the treetops swaying with a leathery creak... Beneath the tunnel of leaves, dappled light swirls along the path like reflections on a river, but beyond this, the thick ferns and bushes straggle into shadow."

The Longest Night of Charlie Noon takes a look at how, with the benefit of understanding the bigger picture of life, some things which once seemed so important become trivial - what's the point in being at enmity with those around you when the world holds much greater enemies and threats? But it does the opposite too: if you can change the small things in life, then perhaps you can change the big things too - once one has changed one's own world, maybe they can go on to change things in the wider world.

Saturday, 15 June 2019

Book Review: 'Lubna and Pebble' by Wendy Meddour & Daniel Egnéus

There are plenty of books out there that tell the story of how a child befriends an inanimate object, but none are as pertinent or as substantial as 'Lubna and Pebble' by Wendy Meddour & Daniel Egnéus.

The title page gives the adult reader a good idea of the story's context: a beautiful illustration of a boat, laden with passengers, Arabic script on its hull, is seen from below the waves as sunlight pierces the water's surface. The boat is painted with flowers - this is a story of hope, yet it is the story of a small girl running from the certain horrors (never explicit) of her home land. Children will need to read the story to understand all that this image depicts.

Lubna and her Daddy are searching for safety. But where are her brothers? And where is her mother? And how will she and her father weather the winter in the camp? Pebble will help. And Daddy. Young children will identify with Lubna as she speaks to her pebble but the surprise they find in her not having a cuddly toy to provide solace will spark conversations, allowing empathy and understanding to grow.

The comfort that is afforded Lubna allows her to pass the kindness on when she meets Amir. With illustrations that are rich in imagery and simple but powerful text, even the youngest readers will feel the emotions at play here. Not only should they begin to understand, at an appropriate level, of the plight of other children in the world, they are also shown that kindness costs nothing.

Although there are plenty of picture books out there that aim to open the eyes of more privileged children, there are few which manage to achieve that with this level of simplicity and implicitness. Egnéus' imagery cleverly weaves motifs of hope - glowing light and blooming flora - with a use of colour that speaks to children's hearts. The text nearly always leaves the reader wanting to know more: why did they arrive on the beach at night? Why were Daddy's arms salty? What was the World of Tents? Why did they have to stay in the tent during winter? In this way, Meddour sensitively allows the difficult answers to be discussed between the adult who knows the child reader best, never presuming to be the one who knows how best to tackle the issues.

In a culture of entitlement, books like these are so important for our children. Although this could be read alone, I'd recommend that it is one that adults take the time to read with children. If you are struggling to explain the plight of refugees to your children then this book is a brilliant starting place.

Friday, 14 June 2019

Geography Key Questions To Ask When Learning About A Place

When reviewing and revising our curriculum to ensure better humanities coverage I began to think about how there were potentially missed opportunities for children to be revisiting and re-enforcing geography knowledge and skills.

For example, when children learn about the Ancient Romans, they might learn about Italy, or indeed any of the other places in the Roman Empire. As well as ensuring that children can place the historic period on a timeline and so on, I think it is also worth them knowing about the places where events took place.

I began to think that a common approach to learning about these places might help teachers to provide sufficient and consistent information about them. I decided a set of questions that could be asked and answered whenever a new place was 'discovered' might be a good way to structure this common approach.

The hope is that, with these questions, children will begin to build up a) a good knowledge of the world, and b) a good bank of questions that they might begin to ask more autonomously whenever they come across the mention of place that they do not know much about.

I used the National Curriculum as guidance for the following questions with the intention that NC objectives would be covered multiple times during a child's time in school.

As well as sets of questions, I've also proposed some actions that might be undertaken each time a new place is learned about - one of the main aims of these actions is that children know where in the world each place that is studied is located.

A downloadable version of the below is available for free on TES: https://www.tes.com/teaching-resource/geography-key-questions-linked-to-ks1-2-national-curriculum-12133248

Thanks must go to Geography Meg on Twitter for inspiring me with her CLOCC acronym.

KS1

When learning about a new place (for example, during non-geography-based units, such as history-based units) always ask and answer these questions:

COWWS:

  • CONTINENT – Which continent is it in?
  • OCEANS AND SEAS – Which oceans or seas are nearby?
  • WEATHER – What is the weather like there? Is it hot or cold there? Is it near the equator or the poles?
  • WHO AND WHAT – Who (people) and what (animals and plants) live there?
  • SEE – What would we see there? What is natural? What has been made by humans?

A pre-populated COWWS grid - a blank
version can be found in the TES download.
When learning about a new place (for example, during non-geography-based units, such as history-based units) always carry out these actions:

• 1st: Locate it on a map of the county/region it is in (and show and discuss, using simple compass directions and locational language, where it is in relation to: other places previously studied; our country; our location)
• 2nd: Locate it on a map of the country it is in (and show and discuss, using simple compass directions and locational language, where it is in relation to: other places previously studied; our country; our location)3rd: Locate it on a map of the world (and show where it is in relation to: other places previously studied; our country; our location)
• Locate it on a globe (and show and discuss, using simple compass directions and locational language, where it is in relation to: other places previously studied; our country; our location)
• Locate it on a plan perspective or on aerial photographs
• Show images of the place (avoid only showing stereotypical images, especially when studying a whole continent or country)

KS2

When learning about a new place (for example, during non-geography-based units, such as history-based units) always ask and answer these questions:

General questions to ask about location:

HOTCLUB:

  • HEMISPHERE - Which hemisphere(s) is it in?
  • OTHER PLACES - Where is it in relation to other places we have studied or know about, including countries and continents (using 8 points of a compass)?
  • TIMEZONE - Which timezone(s) is it in?
  • CLIMATE - Which climate zone(s) is it in? (Tropical/Dry/Temperate/Continental/Polar)
  • LATITUDE - Where is it in relationship to the main lines of latitude (using 8 points of a compass)? (Arctic Circle/Tropic of Cancer/Equator/Tropic of Capricorn/Antarctic Circle) What is its latitude and longitude?
  • US - Where is it in relation to our village/town/city/county/country?
  • BODIES OF WATER - Which bodies of water are nearby?


A pre-populated HOTCLUB grid - a blank
version can be found in the TES download.
Questions to ask about the location…

…Of a continent:

• Which countries are in this continent?

…Of a country:

• What is the capital city?
• Which major cities are in this country?
• Which other countries are nearby?

…Of a city/town/village:

• Which country is it in?
• Which continent is it in?
• Which other cities/towns/villages are nearby?
• Which county/region is it located in?
• What is its grid reference?
• What are its origins?

General questions to ask about any continent/country/city etc:

Human Geography

• Who lives there?
• Which major landmarks are found here?
• What human-made features are found here?
• How was the land used here now and in the past?
• What types of settlement are found here?
• What kinds of economic activity happen here?
• Which natural resources can be found here?
• What is its population?
• (If studying a country) What do they export and where do they export it to?
• (If studying a country) What do they import and where do they import it from?

Physical Geography

• Which (terrestrial) biomes are found here? (Rain Forest/Deciduous Forest/Desert/Temperate Grassland/Tropical Grassland/ Taiga/Tundra)
• What lives there?
• What is the elevation like?
• Which major rivers and valleys are found here?
• Which major mountains are found here?
• Which natural disasters are known to happen here?

Additional, non-essential questions to ask (a non-exhaustive list):

• What is the place famous for?
• What kind of food is eaten there?
• Which religions are followed there?
• Which famous people are from there?
• What are houses and buildings like there?
• What happened there in the past?
• Which sports are played there?
• What is it like to live there?

Geography Units

If carrying out a geography-specific unit use the majority of the questions from STEEP in addition to the above questions in order to ask more in-depth questions about the place:

• Social
• Technological
• Economic
• Environmental
• Political

(Thanks to Geo Josie on Twitter for STEEP)

When learning about a new place (for example, during non-geography-based units, such as history-based units) always carry out these actions:

• 1st: Locate it on a map of the county/region it is in (and show where it is in relation to: other places previously studied; our country; our location; lines of latitude; hemispheres)
• 2nd: Locate it on a map of the country it is in (and show where it is in relation to: other places previously studied; our country; our location; lines of latitude; hemispheres)
• 3rd: Locate it on a map of the world (and show where it is in relation to: other places previously studied; our country; our location; lines of latitude; hemispheres)
• Use computer mapping (e.g. google maps) to zoom in to and out of the place, discussing location in relation to other known places
• Locate it on a political map (and look at nearby countries and borders)
• Locate it on a physical/topographic map (and look at elevation, mountains, rivers, bodies of water)
• Locate it on a climate map (and look at the colours used to show different climatic areas)
• Locate it on a map with a satellite image overlay
• Locate it on a globe (and show where it is in relation to: other places previously studied; our country; our location; lines of latitude; hemispheres)
• Locate it on an Ordnance Survey map (and identify its grid reference and use symbols to locate local features)
• Show images of the place (avoid only showing stereotypical images, especially when studying a whole continent or country)

Useful resources for preparing information to help children answer HOTCLUB questions:

HEMISPHERE - Which hemisphere(s) is it in?

Use Google: type in ‘ + hemisphere’ e.g. ‘Algeria Hemisphere for the following, or similar:


OTHER PLACES - Where is it in relation to other places we have studied or know about, including countries and continents (using 8 points of a compass)?


https://www.climate-zone.com/ - gives information about where any country is located in relation to nearby places


TIMEZONE - Which timezone(s) is it in?


Use Google: type in ‘ + timezone’ e.g. ‘Madagascar timezone’ for the following, or similar:



https://www.timeanddate.com/worldclock/personal.html - use this customisable site and the snipping tool to get a snip of clocks showing GMT and any other city in any other time zone e.g.:



https://www.worldatlas.com/ - click on a continent/country; use the ‘time’ tab to find out about timezones


CLIMATE - Which climate zone(s) is it in? (Tropical/Dry/Temperate/Continental/Polar)


Tropical (A)/Dry (B)/Temperate (C)/Continental (D)/Polar (E) are the main 5 classifications in Köppen’s climate classification system. More information can be found at the following sites:


https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/K%C3%B6ppen_climate_classification


https://www.mindat.org/climate.php - use the colours on the map to ascertain climate zone


https://www.nationmaster.com/country-info/stats/Geography/Climate - some of the terminology here is slightly different to Köppen’s climate classification system but it is useful nonetheless.


LATITUDE - Where is it in relationship to the main lines of latitude (using 8 points of a compass)? (Arctic Circle/Tropic of Cancer/Equator/Tropic of Capricorn/Antarctic Circle) What is its latitude and longitude?


https://www.climate-zone.com/ - gives the geographic coordinates for any country


https://www.worldatlas.com/ - use a world map from this site (or similar) to find and describe a place’s location in relation to the main lines of latitude. This site also gives latitude and longitude of any country and its main cities.

US - Where is it in relation to our village/town/city/county/country? 


Use a map to locate both places and describe position using compass points with reference to the prime meridian (Longitude 0º, Greenwich Mean Time) as this runs through the UK e.g. ‘India is to the south east of the prime meridian making it south east of the UK’


Use Google: type in ‘ to distance’ e.g. ‘UK to India distance’ for the following, or similar (add ‘km’ to search to change unit of measurement):



BODIES OF WATER - Which bodies of water are nearby?


Use a map to locate nearby major oceans and seas


Use Google: type in ‘rivers longest’ or similar e.g. ‘rivers France longest’ for the following, or similar:



Generic resources, useful for answering most of the questions:


https://www.climate-zone.com/ - gives official name, capital, area, climate, location, geographic coordinates, comparative area, land boundaries, coastline (length), terrain and elevation extremes for any country.


https://www.worldatlas.com/webimage/flags/flags.htm - flags of the world


https://www.worldatlas.com/ - for each country there are various maps (including physical, outline and location maps), basic information (including area, population, population density, currency, largest cities), history, famous natives, weather, general facts, historical timeline and more.


https://www.mapsofindia.com/worldmap/ - a wide selection of world maps can be found here including physical, political, outline, climate, tectonic plates, world time and religion maps (these maps cannot be downloaded but can be viewed on screen)


https://askabiologist.asu.edu/sites/default/files/resources/articles/biomes/world-biomes-map.gif - a useful map of the world showing biomes closely matched to the biomes selected to use (its accompanying article is useful too for defining the different biome types: https://askabiologist.asu.edu/explore/biomes)


https://www.internetgeography.net/wp-content/uploads/2017/12/world-map-biomes-.png - a useful map of the world showing biomes closely matched to the biomes selected to use (its accompanying article is useful too for defining the different biome types: https://www.internetgeography.net/topics/what-is-a-biome/)


https://www.britannica.com – use this site to search for information about a place – best for countries, but also works for cities too – information for towns is limited.


https://www.kids-world-travel-guide.com/


https://www.natgeokids.com/


https://tutorful.co.uk/blog/learning-geography-useful-websites-and-resources-that-will-rock-your-world - a huge list of websites and apps to support geography learning

Monday, 10 June 2019

Empathy: A Superpower by Sita Brahmachari

"Reading helps young minds to imagine lives beyond their own: how they would cope in a crisis, if they were a refugee, or had just lost someone they loved. Books are scientifically proven to help us develop empathy.

Empathy Day is catching fire because in these divided times, our partners share our belief that empathy is a beacon of hope. Story-based strategies offer a concrete way of helping us understand each other better."

- Miranda McKearney OBE, founder of EmpathyLab

Now here's Sita Brahmachari to tell us more about her experience of Empathy Day and of writing books which develop empathy in their readers: 

For Empathy Lab last year I worked in Sheffield Libraries and met families at Empathy cafés. We read from my stories 'Worry Angels' (Barrington Stoke) and 'Tender Earth' (Macmillan Children’s Books) and I held Empathy workshops with young people including those from Beck School in Sheffield.

We explored joining hands together, meeting new people and building empathy within the community. Many wonderful interactions were formed and afterwards a young family sent me a letter (left). When I first met Tanisha and Nawzad and their mother the girls had silky hair down to their calves. At the second meeting the girls had cut their hair and sent it to children with cancer who needed children’s downy hair for their wigs. They said after the workshop they wanted to do something that meant a lot to them. They were so proud of their empathetic action telling me that their hair would grow and they were happy to think that a child they would never meet would find some comfort from their healthy hair.

As with all truly empathetic actions their kindness and generosity moved me. In my forthcoming story ‘Where The River Runs Gold’ (Orion Books) Shifa (meaning healing in Arabic) cuts her hair too in an act of empathy towards her family. Feelings of empathy once seeded grow more empathy.

Empathy is the golden treasure to be discovered in fiction and in life and I think of it as the superpower that can be quietly ignited in the minds and hearts of readers as they discover characters in worlds they may not yet have travelled to, or indeed may never, in reality, have access to. I believe that stories can open children’s empathy portals and offer them a life-long exploration of what it is to be human.

At a recent event at Shropshire Book Award with wonderful authors and human rights activists Liz Laird and Beverly Naidoo a student asked a question that was hard to answer: How do you write such humane books?

It set me thinking that it’s often hard for authors to talk about their process because to do so there is a temptation to make writing in empathy ink seem much neater and tidier than it ever is. Communication is complex; to truly meet another human being requires time, care and space. As Amy May in ‘Worry Angels’ says: ‘If you have a friend and you don’t share much of the same language you have to put spaces between things when you talk to each other. … I like that space when you can rest. I think if I could have that space with everyone, no matter what language they speak , where I have time to read people’s body language and look in their eyes and time to take in their words, then I wouldn’t worry so much.’ ( p77 ‘Worry Angels’)

In this story Amy May makes friends with Rima who has recently arrived from Syria with her family. Through play, art and observing each other closely Amy May and Rima discover that they have much in common though they come from very different worlds. Amy May discovers something truly precious: ‘When I sit with Rima I understand that most of the things we want to build in the sand are the same’ (p75)

Through my work with Jane Ray at Islington Centre for Refugees and Migrants in London I know this to be true and when presented with stories that open the empathy portal in them, children recognise it too.

When I think of Amy May’s and Rima’s interaction the words of the late MP Jo Cox are never far from my mind and heart. Amy May’s words echo Jo Cox’s call for unity in a time in which we are seeing unprecedented racially motivated attacks.

Taneisha’s and Nawzad’s empathetic action of hair cutting seems to me to be deeply connected to what writing for young people is all about.

The question How do you write such humane stories? can only be answered when I think of a book in the hands of young readers: the circuit of empathy is only completed when the reader roams in the space that Amy May speaks of and feels deeply enough to allow the story to impact on their lives and interactions.

As I return to Sheffield to spend the day with the children of Beck School on World Empathy Day 2019 I feel the importance of this work in our world today. In a whole school empathy focused day we plan to create a river of golden empathetic words on an art wall at the school… as well as an empathy ‘Graffitree’ like the trees artists paint across a dystopian city where children’s imaginations and storytelling is under threat in ‘Where The River Runs Gold’.

 The narratives we share with young people matter deeply. Golden words hold within them the power to open empathy portals in children’s imaginations and impact on their lives and communities. I’m so happy to be part of Empathy Lab’s children’s book community who understand the need to nurture this golden empathy river.

Although many of Sita's books are suitable for older primary aged children, her book Car Wash Wish is featured in Empathy Lab's 2019 Read For Empathy Guide for young people aged 11-16 which can be accessed here. Click here for the Read For Empathy Guide for primary aged children.

Tuesday, 4 June 2019

Cross-Curricular Links in 'The Longest Night Of Charlie Noon' (Blog Post by Christopher Edge)

One of the joys of writing for children is seeing the inspiration that young readers take from a story you have written. I’m often contacted by teachers via Twitter showing me the amazing creations their classes have produced after reading one of my novels and when I visit schools I get to see this inspirational work first-hand, from Möbius strip sculptures inspired by 'The Infinite Lives of Maisie Day' to playground rocket launches straight out of 'The Jamie Drake Equation' and fabulous creative writing where young authors have taken Albie Bright into many more exciting new worlds.

The 'Longest Night of Charlie Noon' is a story about three children who get lost in the woods, and at its heart it’s a mystery story. As Charlie, Dizzy and Johnny make their way through the woods they find strange dangers and impossible puzzles lurking in the shadows, and I hope the excitement and intrigue readers will find in the story will get them reading closely to find the clues they need to solve the mystery. As readers, they can make inference and predictions as they follow Charlie’s path through the woods, with the twists and turns of the story also maybe challenging assumptions they might make and showing them the rewards of close reading.

The puzzles in the story can also be used to help develop children’s problem solving skills. From decoding ciphers to building circuits to create their own Morse code keys, 'The Longest Night of Charlie Noon' shows how stories can be used to connect subjects across the school curriculum. As Charlie tries to use the stars to find a way out of the woods, links can be made to the topic of ‘Earth and Space’ in the science curriculum and the movement of stars across the night sky, whilst other science topics such as the life cycles of trees, plants and flowers and how fossils are formed are also touched on in the story. Connections could be made to Geography too, with children learning about changing environments and carrying out nature audits in their own local area, whilst there are also links to History too.

As someone who’s never been much of an outdoor type, writing 'The Longest Night of Charlie Noon' has helped me to connect to the natural world in a way that has fed my imagination. From mentions of 'The Wind in the Willows' to echoes of 'Brendon Chase' by ‘B B’, there are opportunities to make connections with classic works of children’s fiction and nature writing. A vocabulary of the natural world is woven through the story and I hope that young readers take these words and make them their own, enriching their vocabularies and using this wild inspiration to create their own art and stories.

Teaching resources for 'The Longest Night of Charlie Noon' are available from my website (https://www.christopheredge.co.uk/resources) and if you read the book with your class, I’d love to hear about the inspiration they find in the story. And please tell them to keep reading and change the world.

Friday, 17 May 2019

The Primary Curriculum Leader's Handbook


I am pleased to say that I have a short essay in John Catt's 'The Primary Curriculum Leader's Handbook', edited by Roy Blatchford who has 'has brought together some of the sharpest thinkers in education in a brilliant mixture of both practical and conceptual essays about what makes for a positive primary curriculum'.

Here's the opening of my chapter which is entitled 'Apprentices and Masterclasses' and which reflects the current practice that my school and my colleagues have been developing:

The National Curriculum, with a degree of effort, is fairly easy to cover, once you’ve got to grips with what some of the statements mean. If everything is planned out well, a school can ensure that all the statements are ticked off, at least in their intent, even if sometimes some objectives are lost at the implementation stage. But is that the sort of curriculum you want? One that is concerned with ticking
boxes?

You’ll have seen the delivery of this sort of curriculum in action. An afternoon’s art lesson often concludes with 30 pieces of near-identical artwork, 31 if you include the teacher’s piece that ‘inspired’ all the children. A Design and Technology unit that is concerned with making sure that at the end of the half term all children proudly present their parents with a glue-gunned photograph frame that, choice of embellishment aside, is the same each one of their classmates’...

The book costs £15 and is out on 22nd May abut it can be pre-ordered here now: http://www.johncattbookshop.com/titles/the-primary-curriculum-leader-s-handbook

Tuesday, 14 May 2019

Book Review: 'The Maker of Monsters' by Lorraine Gregory

Dystopian fantasy/scifi inspired by Frankenstein from the author of the brilliant 'Mold and the Poison Plot'? Don't mind if I do. When I heard there was to be a new Lorraine Gregory book I was certain it was going to be another original tale of adventure, full of heart and soul.

This one is also full of gristle with a side helping of gore. Whereas 'Mold...' had the smells, 'The Maker of Monsters' gets its grim grittiness from the horrific creatures, so vividly depicted, created by the tortured Lord Macawber. Bent on revenge he raises an army of resurrected creations, pieced together from beasts both mythical and real and powered by his waning magic.

Brat knows what's going on; after all he has worked for Macawber (love the name - great etymological links with 'macabre') nearly all his life since he washed up on the beach of the island where the magical Lord has his forbidding castle. He knows that if the monsters break free then all hell will break loose. And when they do its up to him to warn the people of the mainland. Of course, no main character in a children's book goes it alone and thankfully Molly rescues Brat and proves more than useful along the way as she and her father help to break into the City.

Despite being based in a corner of a world completely different to our own, both the settings and characters are so well developed that nothing seems out of place, even the monsters. In such a short story Gregory displays absolute craftsmanship in the way that she writes. The fact that the people in the story are hardly any different to us (only a handful have magical powers) is the glue that holds it all together - they are just so incredibly human that everything else is plausible.

With several subplots involving rivalry, an estranged daughter and a people held captive under false premises, this hard-hitting tale (things really don't go to plan where in conventional children's books everything would be OK) is touching and warming: Brat's pets Tingle and Sherman play the role of adorable animal sidekicks (such as you might find in all good Disney films) and the real central theme here is love and relationships. The things we do, in good faith, in the name of love and their impact on the lives of others is a concept explored here in an upper key stage two-friendly manner, although it would probably suit KS3 readers even better.

If you're after a short-ish read for older children, especially one that would make a great read aloud and one which also would provide plenty of points for discussion whilst still falling into the fantasy genre, then look no further than 'The Maker of Monsters'. Lorraine Gregory has done it again.

Monday, 13 May 2019

From The @TES Blog: Eyes Down, It's Time For SATs Reading Test Bingo


In what must be the article with the shortest shelf life that I've ever written I've made some tongue-in-cheek predictions for the content of the 2019 Reading SATs:

Read it here: https://www.tes.com/news/eyes-down-its-time-sats-reading-test-bingo

Thursday, 25 April 2019

Book Review: 'Girl 38 Finding a Friend' by Ewa Jozefkowicz

'Girl 38 Finding A Friend', brings to life not only a narrative of present and past, but also introduces a third storyline in the form of an imaginary story which is being written by the story's main character, Kat.

In her second novel for children, Ewa Jozefkowicz draws on the second world war experiences of her own grandmother in Poland. Her story is told by the lips (and paintbrush) of Kat's elderly neighbour Ania, who tells her life story in installments throughout the book. The modern day storyline focuses on the arrival of a new boy at school - a boy who Kat's supposed best friend is intent upon bullying. But Gem doesn't do her own dirty work - that's what she's developed her toxic relationship with Kat for.

If Kat's conscience isn't enough to put her off the cruel things that she's putting Julius through, then Ania's story is. The book itself is a celebration of the power of narrative; through listening to someone else's tale, whilst simultaneously creating her own comic strip, Kat develops her empathy towards others.

And that's just what this book will do for its readers. The elderly are not to be snubbed or looked down upon - they are wonderful people with vast experience and understanding of life and what it is to be human. Newcomers are always potential friends - people who can expand our horizons and open our eyes. Friends are supposed to be friendly - they are meant to do good to you, not harm. It even hints at the fact that even the nastiest people might have a back story that we need to know so as to understand their negative behaviour.

As with other narratives in this vein - Once by Morris Gleitzman and The Silver Sword by Ian Serrailier, for example - there is also the exploration of how, in war, not everything is black and white - there are good people trying to do good things despite their circumstances; despite looking like the enemy.

Suitable for children in upper key stage 2 and older, this delicately written yet compelling book would be a great read for those who enjoy history and slightly more grown-up themes in their reading material. Very much a coming-of-age novel, 'Girl 38 Finding a Friend' (a clever title with dual meaning) will sit well alongside recent books such as 'Armistice Runner' by Tom Palmer and 'Closest Thing To Flying' by Gill Lewis, as well as the aforementioned older books.

Wednesday, 10 April 2019

From the @ThirdSpaceTweets Blog: EEF Digital Technology Report 2019 [SLT Summary]: Essential Guidance For School Leaders On The Perils And Promises Of EdTech In The UK


My summary of the EEF's Guidance Report about the use of digital technology in education: https://thirdspacelearning.com/blog/eef-digital-technology-report-2019-slt-summary/

HWRK Magazine Interview


Issue 7 of HWRK Magazine can be downloaded here: https://www.hwrkmagazine.co.uk/wp-content/uploads/2019/03/HWRK-Issue07-Spring2019.pdf

From the @TES Blog: 7 Ways To Make Art Inspiring At Primary

Actually '7 Ways To Choose Artists, Artworks and Artistic Movements For Your Primary Curriculum' would have been a more accurate title...



As well as developing skills within the realms of drawing, painting and sculpture, and producing their own creative works of art, children, according to the National Curriculum, should also ‘know about great artists, craft makers and designers, and understand the historical and cultural development of their art forms’.

The artwork of others is one of the greatest sources of inspiration and information when it comes to children learning, and then applying, skills to their own pieces of work. So it is important that we teach them to appreciate the human creativity and achievement of the world’s most renowned artists.

But it is also important that the artwork, artists and artistic movements we expose our children to isn’t just a line up the usual suspects. A planned, whole school approach to developing an art curriculum is essential. Perhaps due to a lack of knowledge or time, teachers will often wheel out the same old, same olds, often meaning that children see similar things over and over again.

Read more here: https://www.tes.com/news/art-curriculum-inspiring-primary

Book Review: 'D-Day Dog' by Tom Palmer

If you've read any of Tom Palmer's other historical novels - Over The Line, Armistice Runner, for example - then you will not be disappointed by D-Day Dog at all. In fact, you'll be blown away and left pondering whether, in fact, this is actually his best one yet.

Reading 'D-Day Dog', you'd be forgiven for thinking that what you are actually reading is an accurate retelling of real life events, so thorough is the historical research that has informed this story. But that makes this brilliant book sound far too cold and clinical - here we have a story full of heart, warm and so tenderly handled.

As with Armistice Runner, stories of past and present intertwine, only this time there are several threads running through: Jack's love of war simulation computer games, his dad's desire to fight with the TA in Afghanistan, a Falklands veteran's story, a Syrian refugee's experience of war and the story of Emile and his dog, Glen, who both parachuted into France on D Day during the Second World War.

Jack loves his dog and when he has to do a project on a war hero prior to a school visit to Normandy he learns more about the part that animals, especially dogs, played in the World Wars. But things aren't great at home - his parents don't see eye to eye on his Dad's potential deployment - and Jack's perception of war is changing. What's the point? Why would a soldier choose to go into battle knowing he might be killed, or have to kill others?

The crowning glory of this book is that Tom Palmer sensitively answers those questions - questions we've all turned over in our minds at some point - all through the perfect and powerful medium of story. Tom's inclusion, and positive treatment of, marginalised characters - a child who has a 1:1 learning support, a shell-shocked survivor of conflict in Syria, a boy caught in the middle of family tensions, a grizzly, grumpy old ex-soldier-turned-bus driver - is so natural - there is no shoehorning here.

In fact, cohesion is the name of the game: all the strands mesh together perfectly to promote diversity, inclusion and understanding. What's more, published by Barrington Stoke's Conkers imprint for 7 to 10 year olds, this book is readable by design, allowing such serious subject matter to be accessed and explored by younger children - it's dyslexia-friendly too.

With so much packed into a short read, there is ever reason for this book to be devoured left, right and centre. Get it on your bookshelves - at the library, at school, at home. The children need this.

Here's Tom telling us a little more about the dogs featured in the book:


Book Review: 'The Middler' by Kirsty Applebaum

I knew nothing about 'The Middler', nor Kirsty Applebaum, before I decided to read this book. Yet I was drawn to it. Perhaps it was the fact that I hadn't seen everyone raving about it before I read it - I'm not much of a fan of being part of the herd.

But now I am. I am now just adding to the many voices who are singing the praise of Kirsty Applebaum's debut novel. It would seem that I was not the only one to be drawn by the magic of a book which gives very little away at first glance.  It's funny that I should mention magic, actually. This isn't yet another MG book relying on magic to provide all the answers, but it is a magical book. Not only was I unable to resist this book when came the time to start something new, I was also in thrall to it throughout - I read it at an unnatural pace.

Gently unsettling, at least to begin with, the reader is drawn into the mindset of a small town, a town which could be anywhere, who appear to venerate their eldest children above all others. Things begin to appear gradually more menacing as it is revealed that no one is allowed outside of the town, that any outsiders (or 'wanderers') are regarded with deep suspicion, worse even: hatred. And then there's the matter of all eldests being sent off to fight the silent war.

The depiction of family life within a close-knit, closed-minded community is reminiscent of To Kill A Mockingbird; the air of mystery is akin to that in Holes. And when you find out where the eldests are supposedly going, one can't help but think of The Hunger Games. Now I don't usually make comparisons in reviews and honestly, I'm not making comparisons here, either. Truly, The Middler stands tall amongst the aforementioned tomes and in no way is a derivative of anything else. Despite my making links between this and other books, I would happily claim that this book is unique, something else - a new experience.

When Maggie, a quiet middle child, meets Una - someone she's been indoctrinated to hate - she battles internally with her feelings about the developing friendship. Her heart tells her there is no reason for her to despise her - her head, fed with songs and lies about outsiders, tells her otherwise. If this story line isn't a lesson in empathy that most of us could learn from, then I don't know what is.

Perhaps this is a deeply political novel with themes for children and adults to unpick together, and to relate to current affairs or historical events. Perhaps it's a perfect introduction to post-apocalyptic literature. Or maybe it's really a story about family, friendship, loyalty, curiosity, challenging the status quo and doing the right thing, even when everyone else seems to think it's wrong.

Whatever it is, however we might choose to define it (we, because you will read it - you must), its absolutely certain that 'The Middler' deserves all the praise it gets. Kirsty Applebaum is certainly a name to watch out for in the world of children's books - I'm already looking forward to the next one. Perhaps I'll just read this one again.

Kirsty Applebaum has written a blog post for me entitled Showing Instead of Telling in The Middler which gives advice to budding writers about how to make sure the reader know what characters are like without telling them.

Showing Instead of Telling in The Middler by Kirsty Applebaum

 Kirsty Applebaum, the author of one my current favourite reads 'The Middler' (definitely a 5 star rated book - read my review here), give this advice to young writers:

One of the most amazing things about story is that it has the power to skip past the time-consuming ‘learning and memorising’ part of our brain and go straight to the ‘just knowing’ part. We don’t need to pause and rewind halfway through Toy Story, for example, to work out whether Buzz Lightyear is over-confident in his flying ability, or remind ourselves that Woody is jealous of this dashing interloper. We just know. And the reason we just know is that we’ve been skilfully shown.

‘Show don’t tell’ (i.e., demonstrate rather than explain) is a rule often cited in the writing world. I don’t 100% agree - a writer should show or tell, I think, according to the effect they wish to achieve. In The Middler, however, I did try to show rather than tell, because I wanted to achieve an immediate, plunged-into-Maggie’s-world sensation for the reader. I wanted them to just know.

Take Maggie’s dad. If I was to tell you about him, I’d say he was a family man - clean, tidy and prone to becoming slightly overwhelmed in stressful situations. But I don’t say any of those things in The Middler. Instead, I show him - cooking dinner for his children, wiping the table, and stumbling over his words when confronted with difficult issues.

Middle grade readers can learn to spot this technique. For example, ask them to focus on chapter one of The Middler, where Maggie, Jed and Trig leave the house and go to school (available here: https://nosycrow.com/product/the-middler/). Can they answer some questions about the differences between the three siblings? For example: who is the least organised? Who is more careful with their possessions? Who is the most outspoken? Who is the quietest?

Next, ask them to identify exactly which parts of the text enabled them to answer to these questions. They might reply, for example, that Trig speaks up in assembly, while Maggie hardly says a word out loud through the whole chapter.

Students can then go on to show in their own writing. Ask them to make up a character of their own (or perhaps choose a character from a fairy tale) and jot down a few words to describe (or tell) what their character is like. Friendly? Mean? Easy-going? A worrier? Next, ask them to write a short piece about this character leaving the house and going to school/work, just like Maggie, Jed and Trig. BUT – no one is allowed to use the describing words they jotted down. Can they show these things, rather than tell them?

Soon they will have a deeply powerful writing technique under their belts, plunging their own readers into a whole story-world of just knowing. To infinity … and beyond!

Saturday, 30 March 2019

Children's Books Reviewed By Children #1

Well, ever since I wrote TES's best children's books of 2018 article I've been inundated with books. I'd love to be able to keep up with full reviews of each and every one but with a full time deputy headship to occupy me, as well as a family to be a part of, it's just not possible.

However, the fact that I have a family means that I also have some extra readers and reviewers. I (8), A (7) and J (5) are all pretty avid readers and book-lovers who have recently shown interest in beginning to write reviews of what they read. So I thought I'd try harnessing their powers to provide some extra coverage on my blog. And after all, surely, it is their voice that counts the most - these are children's books, written for children, so if they love them, then they must be good!

Without further ado, the first 6 titles that they have turned their attentions to:


The 39-Storey Treehouse is a very good book. I liked the bit where Andy and Terry flew to the dark side of the moon and found professor Stupido so that he could uninvent the once-upon-a-time-machine but instead he uninvented everything. The whole plot was to keep on building storeys onto the tree.

It’s funny how they’ve got a ‘top 5 disgusting things Terry does’ list. Examples of things on the list are sneezing snot into Andy’s face and washing his underpants in the shark tank! Andy and Terry have lots of fun things in the treehouse e.g. the world’s scariest roller-coaster, a bowling alley, a not-very-merry-go-round and a baby dinosaur petting zoo. It’s awesome!

I would recommend it to friends and family. I’m sure I’ll like all the Storey Treehouse books. I think people who like The Magic Faraway Tree by Enid Blyton would like this book.

- I, 8

The 39-Storey Treehouse by Andy Griffiths, illustrated by Terry Denton, was published by Pan Macmillan on 30th July 2015 (ISBN: 9781447281580)


Captain Cat and the treasure map will entertain you! It is very funny when Cutlass the parrot poops on the cursed treasure map. This is a great book for any age 1 2 3.... just any age! This is a great book, Sue Mongredien and Kate Pankhurst! Great example of a creative book! 👍 High five? ✋😉✔️

- A, 7

Captain Cat and The Treasure Map by Sue Mongredien, illustrated by Kate Pankhurst, was published by Pan Macmillan on 7th February 2019 (ISBN: 9781509883905)

Isadora Moon Has A Sleepover by Harriet Muncaster

Even the first bit of "Isadora Moon has a Sleepover" is fun! (literally like 1000000% fun!) It was really good when Isadora and Zoe were making a massive five layer cake but then, in the morning, they made a different little cake but on Monday, Zoe brought the 5 layer cake that they agreed not to bring in! So Oliver and Bruno won the a competition instead! So kind! Awww!❤️😍😘

- A, 7

Isadora Moon Has A Sleepover by Harriet Muncaster was published by OUP on 7th March 2019 (ISBN:978-0-19-276711-0) 


The first story of Dirty Bertie '' Spider'' was so good. Bertie actually brought a spider into class! "Nitwit" was one million trillion% good because he ripped his sweater and it unravelled in half and granny got him a new one. In "Gold" he found a Canadian 10p in the park with his friends.

These are some of the best books ever in the UK and these books are suitable enough for any age..... 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10 or even grown ups!

- A, 7

Dirty Bertie: Spider! by Alan Macdonald, illustrated by David Roberts, was published by Stripes on 7th March 2019 (ISBN:9781847159465)


Matisse's Magical Trail by Tim Hopgood, illustrated by Sam Broughton

At first all the walls were grey and black and boring and at the end they were really colourful. In the middle, Matisse the snail wanted to draw and draw and draw. First, I was feeling bored. At the end I was feeling really colourful.

- J, 5

Editor's note: I particularly enjoyed the fact that the creators had taken inspiration from Henri Matisse's artwork entitled 'The Snail' which was then referenced in the artwork. It led me and J on a mini journey of art discovery as we looked at Matisse's work and compared it to the drawings that Matisse the snail does in the book.

Matisse's Magical Trail by Tim Hopgood, illustrated by Sam Broughton, was published by OUP on 4th April 2019 (ISBN: 978-0-19-276726-4) 

Meet the Penguins by Mike Brownlow

First I felt really sad because the animals didn't let the penguins play. At the end a little cute bear came and he asked 'Can I play?' and the penguins said 'Yes!' and then I felt happy. At the end all of the animals want to play!

- J, 5

Meet the Penguins by Mike Brownlow was published by OUP on 4th April 2019 (ISBN: 978-0-19-276867-4)

The next reviews are in the pipeline and I intend to work with my little reviewers to improve their reviewing technique - one step at a time!

Saturday, 23 March 2019

Book Review: 'Ghost' by Jason Reynolds

What's to be said about this book that hasn't already been said? 'Ghost' was published in the US back in 2016 but UK-based publishing house Knights Of have brought it to these shores, opening it up to a whole new audience. It has garnered multiple rave reviews and mine won't be anything different.

This is not just a book about sports, although it sure will appeal to sports fans. For Ghost running is a way of life. He starts off running when his dad tries to shoot him and his mum (parental discretion advised - this isn't revealed at first) but when a running coach eventually notices his speed and ability, running becomes something so much more: it becomes a motivation to attempt to curb his bad behaviour at school; a distraction from the torments of a young, troubled life.

In Jason Reynold's portrayal of Castle Cranshaw (that's Ghost's real name) we see an impassioned plea for understanding and acceptance; a cry for the world to empathise with those whose life circumstances might translate into misbehaviour. Ghost's mum is great, so's his auntie. And coach really goes the extra mile in his attempts to better Ghost, both as an athlete and as a person, but Ghost's past still haunts him. This book gives just one possible back story, allowing the reader to see life through the eyes of someone less fortunate.

Alternatively, in the right hands, this could be the book that inspires a young person to really persevere, work hard and to nurture their talents and pursue their interests. This story is a great testament (albeit fictional) to the power of sports, hobbies and interests in providing a path to greater things when other doors appear to be closed.

This is an uplifting read, told with great humour from the point of view of a streetwise boy somewhere in an American city. The diverse cast of characters sprint off the page leaving the reader feeling like they know all of them, even the more minor players. Castle, even to someone who knows no one like him, is so convincingly real: he's the sunflower seed-sucking, world record obsessed, wise-cracking friend that you never had - a loveable rogue whose story you just have to follow.

Although there are some references to domestic violence, I'm not sure I'd have an issue with mature upper key stage two children reading this book. Perhaps reading it with an adult would be preferable, but then there are probably children out there who can relate to these issues for whom this would be a salve rather than a shock. Having said that, reluctant secondary-age readers would welcome the fact that an accessible writing style has been paired with more mature themes, as well as humour - this really is the type of book that could hook someone into reading for the first time.

Thursday, 21 March 2019

A Bike Crash

And that's when it hit me.

Main Street, usually busy at that time, was quiet. The residents' parked cars were, for once, not causing an obstruction to the traffic which had long since outgrown the narrow village road. On the morning run it's a long gradual ascent, meaning that at home time, on a day like today, you just let gravity do it's work. Always covering the brakes, mind.

She was waiting to turn in. A silver, boxy car. It says something about my mind state immediately post-accident that I don't know the make and model - he who can identify cars at night just by the position of the rear lights in relationship to the number plate recess.

There were two other cars behind her. One or two others waiting to turn onto the road that we all were, at that point, sharing in accordance with the normal rules and considerations. A good number of pedestrians around too: at the bus stop, going to the shop, clearing rubbish from a garden.

They all saw her turn. They all heard me shout - if they hadn't seen me coming before that, they saw me then. But she didn't. They all saw her turn. They all saw what happened.

I'd pulled on the brakes and had begun to turn the bike so that I wouldn't hit her head-on. I managed to unclip from the pedals and, to the best of my memory, neither I nor the bike hit the ground. I was stopped in my tracks but she wasn't sticking around.

I found the pavement, and a kindly passerby who checked I was OK. He chatted about his own similar experience and commented on how he liked my bike. No physical damage to me or bike so after a few minutes I got on my way again.

Down hill. Up hill. Up big hill. Down hill. Home. Grapes. Nuts. Sent informative and 'reassuring' text to my wife. Shower. Cuppa. I really am OK.

Later on, lying in bed with headphones on, listening to a favourite album, my eyelids began to droop. A pleasant drowsiness overcame me. My eyes closed.

The car sped towards me and there was nothing I could do. I jolted awake.

And then, as I settled down to make a good go of getting the night of sleep my body (always weary after even a accident-free cycling commute) needed, the vision repeated: again and again and again. Fragments of torment pierced the thin stuff separating subconscious imagination and reality. I woke. I slept. My brain, desperate to process, projected scraps of its footage: a turning wheel, slow-motion; a brake lever, depressed, but not by enough; the back end of a disappearing car (silver). I woke. And repeat all night.

And that's when it hit me: I wasn't OK. The car had left its mark. That's when it hit me.

Thursday, 7 March 2019

From The @TES Blog: 6 Ways To Get D&T Right At Primary


“Design and technology is an inspiring, rigorous and practical subject…”

But is it really, in your school? I mean, it could be. But how do we ensure in primary schools that it is?

Read the article here: https://www.tes.com/news/6-ways-get-dt-right-primary

Thursday, 21 February 2019

Frank Cottrell-Boyce - Reviewed By Children


To celebrate the new republished, redesigned versions of Frank Cottrell Boyce's well-loved books 'Millions', 'Framed', 'Cosmic', 'The Astounding Broccoli Boy' and 'Sputnik’s Guide to Life on Earth' I've gathered together some reviews from the people who really matter: the children who read and love them.

Steven Lenton (who illustrated the older versions) has designed new covers which are sure to give these modern classics a new lease of life and a brand new audience, but why should you and your children read them? Let's find out...

Cosmic - a review by Thomas Groves, age 13.

Everyone loves space don’t they?

Liam is a very, very tall boy for his age. He’s so tall in fact, that people often mistake him for a grown up. Frank Cottrell Boyce’s Book Cosmic embraces this when he is mistaken for the new teacher at his new school and has to present an assembly and also when he later nearly gets away with test driving a new Porsche!

Things only get more laugh-out-loud funny when he is mistaken for his father by a woman who offers him the chance to take part in a very special competition that will make him ‘a hero in the eyes of his children’. He takes up the offer, wins and then ends up being launched into space with four other children. When things go wrong, can he save the day?

My favourite character is Liam because he is very plucky and easy to relate to and because he gets into lots of scrapes which only get more and more hilarious as the story goes on.

I like this book because it is very funny and moving and shows good and bad human qualities and a great plot.

I would heartily recommend it for all ages.


Broccoli Boy - a review by Jake Niemi, age 9

Broccoli Boy is an interesting, adventurous story about a boy called Rory Rooney, who is being bullied by a horrible bully called Grim Komissky. (That’s not his real name, Grim would be an odd first name.) One day, on a school trip, Rory turns bright green and is taken to the hospital. Imagine his shock and surprise when he finds out he’s there, and trapped, with none other than his bully! After believing turning green means he’s a superhero and he’s going to save the world he finds out he’s not actually the only one who’s green.

This book is brilliant, it’s cool, interesting and amazing. It has all the things that kids need: laughter, friendship and a reminder that adults don’t know it all even if they act like they do (in fact, adults should read this too!) I rate it 5/5 and think any child would love this book, in fact you’ll be wanting the whole collection of books! Hope you enjoy reading!

Remember, as the book says, ‘The thing that makes you different is the thing that makes you astounding.’


Sputnik’s Guide To Planet Earth by Shannon Finlan, age 14

Sputnik’s Guide To Planet Earth is a light-hearted fun tale of an orphan boy named Prez who has an encounter with a dog who is actually an alien, whilst living in the countryside in a foster home. Prez is a young carer to his Grandfather who has been dignosed with dementia. Caring for his Grandfather is a fun day-to-day chore for Prez, with laughter and games around the house... Or so it seems. 


As we delve deeper into the book however, we learn that the protagonists grandfather’s dementia is no longer a laughable silly matter and it’s actually quite heart breaking and sad. I could really relate to this with my personal experience of my Grandad’s dementia. With personal experience as a child seeing my Grandad’s memory deteriorate, I didn’t fully understand the severity of the condition at the similar age that Prez is in the book. Towards the end of the book as Prez begun to understand the condition more, I could relate to when I also began to understand that Dementia was more than silly jokes about things like forgetting about the rules of card games, getting names wrong, to forgetting completely those close around you.

Frank Cottrell Boyce uses an excellent ratio of light-hearted humour to sadness to make the book having you want to laugh and cry. This is an amazing viewpoint into a young carer's life to which Frank Cottrell Boyce has shown how a child, such as Prez, would interpret the situation at hand. I cried for hours after I had finished reading the book, it really pulled at my heart strings. I would highly recommend this book to children and adults alike.

Now head over to my Twitter to feed to take part in my competition to win a whole set! (Competition runs from 21/2/19 to 24/2/19 at 8pm)

Don't forget to look out for Frank's new book for World Book Day this March: The Great Rocket Robbery is a brilliant little story perfect for new and old fans alike.