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May Literature Review

5th May 2017

We’ve been absolutely spoilt in putting together this month’s literature review- there is such an array of wonderful books that have just been published and we’ve greedily inhaled several in order to whittle down our selection to three: Tidy by Emily Gravett, Out of Heart by Irfan Master and Good Night Stories for Rebel Girls by Elena Favilli and Francesca Cavallo.

 

Picture Book:

Tidy by Emily Gravett (Latest edition Two Hoots Books, 23rd March 2017, first published in 2016)

 

A charming book, this latest offering from acclaimed author and illustrator Gravett (Wolves Macmillan, 2005; Cave Baby, written by Julia Donaldson, Macmillan 2011) tells the tale of a badger, named Pete, who is more than a little obsessive about the tidiness of his fellow forest-dwellers and of the forest itself. So, when Autumn arrives and the trees drop their leaves, Pete tidies them up. However, this isn’t enough. Pete still ‘wasn’t happy, Now the trees looked bare and scrappy’.

Pete’s solution? To dig up all of those pesky, scrappy-looking trees of course. Except his over-zealousness causes a sequence of very messy events including a flood, then lots of mud…

Whilst there is a clear ecological message in this picture book there are also themes of recognising the error of ones ways, making amends and friendship.

Beautifully illustrated and written in verse, this book will delight any 3-6 year old. We feel it would work particularly well as a year 1/2 Guided Reading text especially as some of the vocabulary (for example, burr and scoured) would lend itself to supporting the development of reading skills beyond decoding.

 

Children’s Novel:

Out of Heart by Irfan Master (Hot Key Books, 20th April 2017)

 

We were lucky enough to be sent a copy of this incredible new novel by Master  (A Beautiful Lie, 2011, Bloomsbury) ahead of its official publication date and were not disappointed.

Adam and William each try to make sense of their own situation- one, new life with a new heart and the other, loss of heart. Inextricably linked, William proves to be something of a salve on the wounds of Adam. And both characters are wounded souls in some way; both seek family and acceptance. It seems, at least for a while, that each have found what they so desperately need. In this tale of loss, grief and guilt, we see Adam develop a fierce sense of loyalty, a sense of purpose and, perhaps unexpectedly given the circumstances, hope.  Whilst there is a sense of resolution, the novel's conclusion is both real and realistic.

Master's use of Blake's The Little Boy Lost and The Little Boy Found, which serve as a prologue and epilogue respectively, was the proverbial icing on this delicious novel. At least one of us in the office was gently weeping only a few pages in. And Master's soaring phrases of prose juxtaposed with edgy use of the vernacular make for an exquisite pairing of styles. Just beautiful.

An evocative novel for young adults but would also work well as a class-reader with year 6's in the summer term.

 

Non-fiction:

Good Night Stories for Rebel Girls by Elena Favilli and Francesca Cavallo (Penguin Books Ltd and Particular Books, 2nd March 2017)

 

There has been much in the media recently around empowering and educating our girls to really believe that they have endless possibilities and choices in terms of what they choose to do with their lives: what better way to support this than sharing texts that inspire and encourage through stories of boundary-pushing and the smashing of ceilings? We were thrilled when this collection of ‘Good Night’ stories – with a difference – was published. From Ada Lovelace to Zaha Hadid, the book carries a powerful anti-princess message. Listing both famous and lesser-known women over time, we hear the extraordinary stories of opera singers, warriors, activists and spies. The common denominator? Every person-of-note featured is female.

Each woman’s story is told through a concise and beautifully written potted-biography beginning with the often synonymous-with-princesses fairy-tale line: Once upon a time... The illustrations, each created by one of 60 (female) artists from around the world, are stunningly executed and the inclusion of inspirational quotes for the women featured adds weight to what the authors set out to achieve, we feel. We think that this book will be adored by male, female, young and old.

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