'Outside a dog, a book is a man's best friend. Inside a dog it's too dark to read.' Groucho Marx
JULY 2020 - moomins: mad stories for crazy times
Tove Jansson, writer and illustrator of the Moomin books, comic strips and books for adults has been intriguing and entertaining us for 75 years.
I am re-reading the Moomin books for the first time in many years and am reminded how her books are perfect for all ages. No matter how many times you read them, it is impossible to read the same book twice. There is as much between the lines as on the printed page and beautiful illustrations and each person finds their own way and unique interpretation. I wonder if this might be what separates a good author from a great one, the need for the reader to participate, bring something of themselves and be part of the meaning made?
Tove Jansson never forgot what it is to be a child and the importance of play for us people. Not the play where the game and rules are made by others, but the play we make for ourselves, with its own rules, often changing ones. This is the play I remember most: the anarchic play of the den, the woods and places where People In Charge rarely get involved. She has a laser sharp view of the malarky* of life and how while we can't control much that we meet on our life's journey, we have some control over the manner in which we meet it. Her books meander along playfully, embracing new people and events and the richness of life as it unfolds on the pages.
What I love most about the Moomin books though is there really are no outsiders. Characters are kind, helpful, thoughtful and philosophical; they are silly, outspoken and blunt, sad, grumpy, vain, vacuous and downright daft but everyone is welcome and everyone has their place. In each book, Moominmamma welcomes all comers into an ever increasing family of her own children and other people's. I think everyone can find themselves in at least one of the characters. And as everyone is welcome in Moominvalley, you really don't need to worry about which one!
Whether you are four and love an adventure, or eleven and thinking more deeply about the meaning of life, Moomin books will help you see other people and the world with new eyes. And if you are a family wanting a book where the readers 4-44 can enjoy, you should give them a try.
* malarky is another word for fun but a better word as it includes a sense of magic and a hint of chaos!
JUNE 2020 - can reading really make you kinder?
In his book The Better Angels of Our Nature, Stephen Pinker makes the argument that for most of history, life for most people has been hard, brutal and short. He argues that over time the world is becoming a kinder, more tolerant place. He writes how, while far from perfect, the world we live in today is better than the world of our parents and grandparents. Poverty is still with us, but there is less of it; some children still work long hours in factories but in most countries child labour is illegal.
Pinker says that one reason for this is the rise of reading and writing (literacy). In the past most people were illiterate but now many people (and all those in the UK) have the opportunity to learn to read and write. And it is reading stories and novels that Stephen Pinker says has played a big part in making us much kinder. When we watch TV or a film, we see things happening to others; it may upset us; we are sympathizing with someone else. When we read a story though the experience is very different. We become the character, we inhabit their skin and walk in their shoes in a way nothing else can do as well. This is why when Charles Causley wrote the Water Babies and Charles Dickens Oliver Twist many people stopped thinking that sending children up chimneys was OK and saw the street children who might be dirty and steal with new eyes. People argued for change, told their politicians to make new laws and things got better. When we see someone's story we can sympathise but when we read their story we empathise - we feel their pain.
When I agree with Stephen Pinker that reading makes you kinder, I don't mean phonics, tricky words and fronted adverbials. And I certainly don't mean reading test results. These are all the least important things about reading. I mean losing yourself in words, sentences and narrative; I mean to walk a little while in someone else's shoes. And having walked in their shoes to see them as a person like you. This is the power of reading - the power to make you usefuller and kinder and wiser.
And if you can't read a story or don't have the book - you can listen to it read. Here are two I have recorded for you and hope you will inhabit some new shoes while you listen to them and come out the wiser afterwards.
Here's Axel Scheffler's new book about coronavirus.
Axel Scheffler and Julia Donaldson have made some funny parodies of their other books. Do you know which books they parody? Have you read them yet?
A parody is a joke where you have fun by imitating something. Janet and Alan Ahlberg used it in The Jolly Postman. Parodies are much funnier when you know the original.
march 2020 - mrs gordon's last blog
“This too shall pass….” Abraham Lincoln
Hello all…..I am writing this half term’s reading blog in a bit of a hurry so you can get some reading tips to help you enjoy your time away from school as much as possible.
To be honest, I am finding it difficult to know what to say……other than this shall pass and please stay safe while we are waiting for that to happen. I am going to miss my Red Squirrels and Mrs Vine, as well as the other staff and my maths class. Please look after yourselves everyone.
One thing that can always help to make sense of the world – or to escape it when it doesn’t make sense – is reading, of course! All I am going to do this half term is recommend some of my old favourites and some new ones that the Bookworms have recently recommended too. Perhaps you or a friend has them on a shelf already? Perhaps you can do swaps or post books through letterboxes, if your friend is trying to stay inside – or invest in some Kindle books if you can – the electronic ones are sometimes cheaper! You can also get lots of extracts online or sometimes free copies online. Here is a link to an article that suggests some sites to do so:
I am suggesting some books below, suited to how we might be feeling during these times. I will try to recommend a range, so all age groups of children are covered!
Books for escapism
When I was younger – nothing was better for escapism that Enid Blyton’s Magic Faraway Tree series: ‘The Enchanted Wood,’ ‘The Magic Faraway Tree,’ and the ‘Folk of the Faraway Tree!’ The Saucepan Man and Moonface are the most bizarre characters I have ever ‘met’ in a book!
The ‘Narnia’ series – CS Lewis: I think boy, girl, 8,9,10 or 11 – you will love these! The first film is great too!
‘Northern Lights’ Philip Pullman: the first of the ‘His Darkest Materials’ books. There is also now a graphic novel of the book available! I bet the illustrations are amazing!
Books for helping you feel happier
The Red Tree – Shaun Tan: if you’re feeling a little impatient for things to get better (which they will!) Shaun Tan’s book is wonderful at helping you realise that better things are on their way….lovely illustrations too!
Wonky Donkey- Craig Smith: hilarious when read aloud, for the whole family!
Books that are a stepping stone for learning more
Two great picture book we have on our shelf at home: ‘The Great Kapok Tree,’ which may inspire you to find out more about the Amazon Rainforest, its animals and deforestation and ‘The Darkest Dark,’ – Chris Hadfield: a young boy defeats his fear of the dark and becomes a famous astronaut.
Books about being brave
‘A Series of Unfortunate Events’ – Lemony Snicket: this was a strong recommendation from Ellie-Mae, one of the Bookworms. Follow the Baudelaire children’s brave journey in a series of THIRTEEN books! That should keep you busy! I was also informed that the series based on the books, on Netflix, is really good!
‘Harry Potter’ – I think you are all familiar! The books remind you of the importance of bravery in dark times. The films are great interpretations too.
Any Roald Dahl book – they are full of kind and brave main characters – who always defeat the odds!
‘Wave Me Goodbye’ – Jacqueline Wilson: none were braver than the children who had to be evacuated in WW2. This is a very thought-provoking book by Jacqueline Wilson. Zara G of the bookworms recommends it.
Weird and wonderful – for the very weird times we now find ourselves in
‘Skellig’ – David Almond: Written some years ago now. A lonely boy discovers a mysterious creature in the garage of his new house.
‘Demon Dentist’ – David Walliams: Perhaps this should be in the books that make you happy, as Walliams is hilarious – but he is also the king of the bizarre, as are all of his books! Jack M from the Bookworms recommends this one!
‘Malamander’ – Thomas Taylor: Emily D from the Bookworms loves this book and highly recommends it! The author illustrated the covers of the Harry Potter books!
Books to read aloud to little sisters and brothers-perhaps help out your parents and entertain your small siblings by reading some early years classics
‘The Tiger Who Came to Tea’ – why? Why does a tiger come to tea? I never have an answer for this bizarre little story but my daughter adores it!
‘The Very Hungry Caterpillar’ – you can explore numbers, colours and the life cycle of a butterfly through this old classic!
‘We’re Going on a Bear Hunt!’ – remember to do the actions! Have a look at Michael Rosen, the author, reading this on You Tube for inspiration. Also have a look/listen to him reading his poem ‘Chocolate Cake.’ – really entertaining! When you have read Bear Hunt then you can recreate it outside, on a nature walk – minus a real bear of course.
‘The Smartest Giant in Town,’ – one of the more underrated Julia Donaldson books – this was my little boy’s favourite one when he was small. A nice message about kindess too.
Please can I encourage you to make any recommendations or reviews on Google Classroom too! Let’s stay in touch about great books!
Stay safe and calm everyone. Just think, lots of time to cosy up with a book isn’t too bad!
World Book Day - March 5th
The Blog for Friday 24th January tells you about World Book Day this year. It's on and we're dressing up! If LKS2 could remember they are having WBD on 6th as we're in Liverpool for the Arts Trip on the Thursday.
READING BLOG 3 – SPRING 1
“There is more treasure in books than in all the pirate’s loot on Treasure Island.”
THE MAGIC OF OUR EARLIEST READING EXPERIENCES.
On February 5th, we celebrated World Read Aloud Day. I love this day because, like World Book Day, it is all about promoting a love of reading in young people, although the focus is very much on oracy- reading our favourite extracts and stories and discussing them. Thank you so much, Mrs Miller, for your feedback from the Key Stage 1 assembly, during which you read your favourite story and discussed why reading aloud and hearing a story can be such a magical, shared experience! Throughout the school there was a buzz of engagement with other people’s favourite books…..what a successful day that is in any school!
This, along with the recent project of ‘The Bookworms,’ (our new UKS2 Reading Club – our new name has just been officially launched!) has prompted me to muse upon the magic of our earliest reading experience, when stories are very much shared, often with those we love, in the safest of environments. I am convinced that these experiences help to shape our future selves, not just as readers but as artists, communicators, observers and enquirers. When this is not possible for a child at home then the adults of the school community must step up – teachers, teaching assistants, volunteers and mentors, to ensure that every child has access to these precious moments. Kingsmead are fully invested in offering their pupils this – within and outside of lessons. Our visiting mentors from Sir John Deane’s are doing a fabulous job. Thanks to them and Mrs Miller (again!) for the work they are doing with the children – so very valuable!
Back to ‘The Bookworms!’ This term has seen the start of the ‘Bookworm’ Club, currently for Year 5 and 6 pupils at Kingsmead. This is proving to be the highlight of my working week; the format is largely unstructured and completely driven by our love of great books! Our first project was to choose ‘the first books we ever loved!’ and to rehearse a dramatic reading of them for Reception children, to whom the bookworms are appearing as ‘mystery readers,’ on a weekly basis. Zara G, a Bookworm, reported back that this was a delightful experience and the children ‘joined in,’ giving their predictions for the end sentence of the book. Oracy at work, even in the Early Years! Well done, Zara and the rest of our Bookworms, for visiting Reception class and sharing your stories, you are completing a very valuable mission!
As the Bookworms and I discussed the most treasured stories of our childhood, one thing became very clear: the stories themselves were not the main driving factor behind the their choice of books. As the children discussed them, every single one described the entire memory of the reading experience - who read to them, where they read and how hearing the story over and over made them feel (using words like ‘safe’ and ‘comforting’). Many parents and carers, even some siblings, were an important part of the memories, and it was clear that the children had not just experienced a wonderful book, but a treasured memory of sharing a story and moment of closeness.
I still read to my own son as much as I can but, at the age of seven, I can sense that he is itching to read independently and our time of cuddles and sharing stories might be over soon. I now ask him to read to his little sister too, so I can still have my emotional moment, without making him feel too ‘babied!’ Time is fleeting. Make memories while you can for both you and your children. Remember that something as simple as sharing a story creates those lasting, happy memories, as the Bookworms reminded me! I have included a link to some great advice about how to read with your child. I hope it is of some help!
As this blog is concerned with our early reading experiences, I am very grateful to Mrs Cotton and Mrs Peacock, who have been asking the Reception children to share their favourite books and reading memories. Here’s what they said:
“My favourite book is Sugar Lump because Sugar Lump goes to the fairground,” Esme told the Bookworms. Great recall of events, Esme!
Harry loves to read dinosaur books because “I love dinosaurs!” a brilliant interest, Harry, well done!
Oliver said that he loves to be read to by his mum and sister “Because they are nice and clear!” Even at 4 and 5, our children are responsive to and critical of the way in which we read to them! Thank you, Oliver!
Harriet supports my theories above about the importance of family reading time, as she said that her favourite person to read to her was “My mummy.”
Fred and Evelyn have loved having “The Gruffalo,” read to them at school because “There is a big, scary monster” (Fred) although they “Really like the description of the Gruffalo!” (Evelyn). Have you seen him at Delamere forest, Ladybirds? I think he might match up to the description – ‘purple prickles,’ and all!
In other book-related news- the Bookworms are currently busy preparing review ‘vlogs’ for you, recommending great books in a high-tech way! More news on this soon! If anyone has a knack of creating videos and posting them to web pages, we may need your assistance – please come and see Mrs Gordon.
In UKS2, we have a wonderful 100 new additions – the 100 books bucket list! I know some children have begun working their way through the list and all confident readers are welcome. It has been a fabulous and worthwhile investment. Mrs Buzzard worked tirelessly on ordering and collecting the orders for these so a huge thank you to her and the UKS2 TA team, for the lovely display that accompanies the books on the shelves below.
Also please do not forget World Book Day on 5th March (6th for Lower Key Stage 2 who are on the Art Trip on 5th. Our theme is ‘inspirational characters from literature!’ I can’t wait to see the costumes!
Happy Reading! Mrs Gordon
world book day
“And the reindeer - tired and cold and hungry as he was - continued to walk up the mountain. Because that is what mountains are for.”
A Boy Called Christmas - Matt Haig
The excitement of the Kingsmead children is becoming palpable as the nativity is rehearsed, carols are being sung and that very important letter/list is being written! Of course, as a kind and caring school community, we also need to remain mindful that this time of year can be a difficult one for some. Christmas can be a very mixed bag of emotions. It is not surprising then that many a song, film and book have been inspired by Christmas. It has become a genre of its own.
One of my favourite authors has captured the potential for both joy and sadness during Christmas (and life!) in many of his books: I’d like to use this half term’s blog to celebrate mainly his work, as well as hear from some of our pupils and teachers about their recommendations - Christmassy and otherwise!
Matt Haig began his career writing autobiographically about his struggles with mental health, after suffering a breakdown in his twenties. After being wonderfully strong and making a recovery, which I am sure is ongoing, he embarked upon a career writing delightful books for both adults and children.
‘How to Stop Time,’ one of his novels, is currently my favourite book, in which a semi-immortal history teacher with a condition that makes him live for centuries, struggles to forge new relationships and forget those who have left him behind. A magical story with some hard-hitting philosophical lessons: a great read for adults who might like their books a little bit supernatural and emotive. It has been out for a couple of years but still a possible gift idea for your grown-ups!
Matt Haig’s children’s book ‘The Truth Pixie’ is my recommendation for Kingsmead pupils for Christmas - and mental wellness! It is a great book for growth mindset and looking at the inevitable bad days and disappointments of life in a more accepting and philosophical way. I have really enjoyed reading it to my little boy and have appreciated the lessons within it myself, so I wholeheartedly recommend it for parent and child reading, as well as to teachers looking for a great mental health book for their class. I know Red Squirrels will be hearing it very soon! Haig followed up ‘The Truth Pixie’ with ‘The Truth Pixie goes to school,’ which is based upon a girl who feels ostracised at her new school. I would certainly recommend this book for children who feel they have been affected by bullying or feeling excluded. The poignant, rhyming lines feel like they are giving you an emotional lift as you read it. My copy is in Red Squirrels. Please come and see me if you would like to borrow either of The Truth Pixie books. The references to pixies, elves and the big FC himself make them ideal Christmas reads. The lovely language and lessons within them make them ideal for any time we feel we might need them.
Matt Haig has written three Christmas themed novels for children too. I read ‘A Boy Called Christmas,’ and it was just delightful. I believe it is currently in production and the film will be released next December! It begins in Finland with a very Dahlesque old Auntie, who is drafted in to care for her nephew Nikolas, treating him so hideously that he embarks upon a quest to find his father. A very magical quest from which unfolds the story of a familiar character. Haig includes some quotes that, like ‘the Truth Pixie,’ remind us of the importance of resilience in the face of insurmountable odds:
‘I wished you to be warm and to be strong and always safe.’
‘Always safe?’ said Nikolas, confused, as Blitzen licked his ear. ‘That’s impossible.’
Little Noosh gasped as Father Topo covered her ears. ‘Elves never say that word.’ He shook his head. ‘An impossibility is just a possibility you don’t understand yet..’
Haig has also written ‘The Girl Who Saved Christmas,’ and ‘Father Christmas and Me.’ There is a website especially dedicated to Haig’s Christmas novels for children; visit matthaig.christmas for previews and activities!
There have been other lovely Christmas books written for children recently. I have needed to recruit a reading-blog elf this half-term to help me review! Jack from Red Squirrels read and reviewed a Christmas book by Ben Miller (from the telly!) ‘The Night I Met Father Christmas.’
Here are his thoughts: ‘This is a great story with wonderful language. I recommend it to children of all ages and adults. Anyone can enjoy this book!’
I would like to say thank you to pupils in Years 3 and 4 this half term: I have had an overwhelming response of reviews of what they are currently reading! Thank you to everyone who took the time to send me a review and I am delighted to hear your excitement and ability to communicate so well about the books you are reading. Here are a few recommendations from our avid readers in Lower Key Stage Two:
Jamie in Hen-Harriers reminds us of the sensory possibilities of books as he says that ‘Charlie and the Chocolate Factory makes my mouth water!’ The timeless charm of Roald Dahl’s writing is also evident in Bridget’s (Hen- Harriers) review and Miss Milward from Cuckoos! They are both reading ‘Matilda!’ Miss Milward loves the ‘humorous and witty writing for both adults and children’ and Bridget claims ‘I love this book!’
Imogen in Hen Harriers is reading a book that I admit I have never heard of but it sounds fascinating! She says that ‘Mrs Frisby and the Rats of Nimh,’ by Robert O’Brien is ‘sad, happy and full of adventure. I would recommend it to everyone.’ For an emotional read, Mrs Wood would recommend ‘The Butterfly Lion,’ by Michael Morpurgo, describing it as ‘powerful and moving,’ it is so lovely to hear reviews from staff too, thank you!
There is a definite love of fantasy adventure books in Lower Key Stage Two: Daniel in Hen-Harriers captures JK Rowling’s writing brilliantly with, ‘At the end of every chapter a question is answered but a new one is formed…’ whereas both Jessica and Megan are reading books from the Chronicles of Narnia series. Jessica says that ‘Narnia- the Last Battle,’ is ‘really exciting,’ and Megan tells us that in ‘The Magician’s Nephew, every chapter has a title and you don’t know what it means, you only figure it out when you’ve read it!’ very intriguing! Artie in Hen-Harriers has reminded me of my own eight-year-old-self by reading good old ‘The Famous Five..’ and commenting on how ‘you just want to keep reading!’ I remember Enid Blyton having exactly the same effect on me and I am so glad to hear you feel the same, Artie!
I have enjoyed hearing about some very original choice of genres from Cuckoos: Joseph is reading a biography about the great Messi, Ciara is reading ‘Tenzin’s Deer’ and very sensitively says how it shows ‘that no matter how much you love something or someone, in the end you have to let it go.’ Matilda is reading ‘Around the World,’ by Linda Jennings and likes how ‘each chapter is a different story and I liked how it made me think of different places.’
Some of the Sparrows have been busy! Poppy has been reading ‘The Amazing Story of Adolphus Tips,’ and has noticed how it is written ‘like a diary,’ thank you Poppy! Millie would recommend ‘The Catnappers,’ for young, confident readers – I think we have many of those at Kingsmead, judging by your amazing reviews! William has a great recommendation for fans of adventure and spy books. He is reading ‘Alex Ryder: Arch Angel’ by Antony Horowitz. Freya and Kaitlyn are both enjoying David Walliams’ books, who I think is the new Roald Dahl. Chloe is reading ‘Daisy and the Trouble with Giants,’ and comments on how the main character goes through ‘problems’ that we may relate to. Jasmine is reading ‘The Magic Faraway Tree’ which to this day remains my favourite book of all time! Hope you are enjoying it, Jasmine!
I am so pleased that our Dr Dubberley was able to tell us her thoughts on a wonderful children’s book: ‘Kensuke’s Kingdom,’ by Michael Morpurgo. She says ‘This is one of my favourite children’s books. Michael Morpurgo is a great author and I’ve enjoyed lots of his other books too. But, ‘Kensuke’s Kingdom is, I think, the best! It is a sad story but has some wonderful descriptions and lovely parts to it. I took this book into read as a parent reader into my son Tom’s class in Year 5 and they loved the chapter I read and went on to read the rest of the book together with their teacher. I hope you enjoy it as much as I did!’
Thank you again for this wonderful range of well-expressed reviews Hen-Harriers, Cuckoos and Sparrows.
I wish you all a peaceful Christmas. Whatever you are doing, I hope you can find some time to lose yourself in a good book.
AUTUMN 1 2019 READING BLOG
Polonius: what do you read my lord?
Hamlet: words, words, words.
Hamlet (William Shakespeare)
Hamlet was being completely sarcastic when he said this and was actually trying to convince Polonius that he was mad- as if reading is ever just ‘words!’ No, the words are merely the keys that open our imaginations and lead us to new people, places, experiences and ways of thinking.
As Julia Donaldson says in her poem about reading (included below,) when she has finished a book, she herself has changed and the world seems a different place because she now has ‘a book inside!’
Not only should we encourage our young people to find the books and authors that make reading magical, but we should also encourage them to review books, to ‘talk books’ and to share books. By doing this not only do young people inspire each other, but they become more articulate and perceptive too!
So, we intend that this blog becomes an important forum for us all to share and talk books, as a school community. Each half term we want to celebrate our readers, share what we are currently reading as well as putting our children in touch with books that will ignite their imaginations and help them grow! Please let me know of any fantastic discoveries of new titles and authors that you make and please feel free to write short reviews of any amazing books you feel should be shared!
Now here is the wonderful, aforementioned poem, by Julia Donaldson, which expresses why we should lose ourselves in a book most wonderfully! Happy Reading all!
I opened a book by Julia Donaldson
I opened a book and in I strode
Now nobody can find me.
I’ve left my chair, my house, my road,
My town and my world behind me.
I’m wearing the cloak, I’ve slipped on the ring,
I’ve swallowed the magic potion.
I’ve fought with a dragon, dined with a king
And dived in a bottomless ocean.
I opened a book and made some friends.
I shared their tears and laughter
And followed their road with its bumps and bends
To the happily ever after.
I finished my book and out I came.
The cloak can no longer hide me.
My chair and my house are just the same,
But I have a book inside me.
What We Are reading
Upper Key Stage 2 have reviewed their current reads, for your inspiration!
Billy in Pine Martens is Reading the very emotive ‘Once’ by Morris Gleitzman, about the Holocaust. He recommends it to you, due to all of ‘the action and many characters to learn about.’
Others in Pine Martens are reading and enjoying books from the Harry Potter series (Orlaith and Lauren)
Amelia is Reading the new David Walliams ’Fing’ which, she claims, will make you ‘giggle,’ while Poppie is mixing her comedy with a little drama: she is reading ‘Double Decker’ by Jacqueline Wilson and recommends it for being ‘intriguing and making me laugh a lot!’
Red Squirrels are also enjoying their comedic reads: Isla W recommends good old ‘Captain Underpants,’ as it will ‘make you laugh’ and when she reads it she feels like she ‘can’t stop reading’ and is right there!’
Fraser recommends ‘Diary of a Wimpy Kid,’ as it is ‘very descriptive!’ Thank you, Fraser!
Eliana and Olivia are also losing themselves in the world of Harry Potter. Olivia loves it for being so ‘adventurous’ while Eliana would recommend it for the amount of ‘detail’ included!
In Hedgehogs, Joe has begun Anne Frank’s diary and is just at the point of, as he eloqently puts it, ‘her starting to fade away as a person...’
Sai Shri is reading a football series called ‘The Stadium School,’ and is finding it a really inspirational reminder of what can be achieved when you ‘put in the effort!’ Elsie is reading ‘The Land of Stories,’ series by Chris Colfer and each book makes her hungry for the next!
I’ve loved hearing your recommendations Years 5 and 6 - thank you so much. Hopefully we can feature recommendations from some younger pupils next half term? Perhaps some reads to get us feeling Christmassy? Whole class reads from teachers too! Let Mrs Gordon and the book blog team of pupils know when you would like to contribute!
Also, after half term I will be starting a book club for keen readers to share their best reads and to help with this blog - as well as taking on the important mission of encouraging a love of reading in our school! More details to follow on Google Classroom.
Finally – please download and peruse the list of recommended reads for children for 2019, from the Book Trust – a wonderful charity and a very inspirational list!