Mina's views on school

I have just been reading Skellig by David Almond. I can't believe I haven't read it before. It is truly one of the most beautiful books I have read in a long while. I was reminded to pick it up of the shelf by the recent publication of My Name is Mina, a sort of prequel that I will definitely be getting hold of.

Mina is a key character in Skellig; the strongest personality in the book. I particularly like her views on school. Her friend Michael brings home a book from school with a red sticker on the back. "It's for confident readers" he explains. "What if other readers want to read it?" she responds. Quoting Tyger, Tyger by William Blake she goes on to ask "Is that for the best readers or the worst readers? Does that need a good reading age?"

David Almond was a primary teacher, and obviously has a view on this sort of thing. I really agree with Mina. I get hung up on reading ages tests and interest levels, when sometimes we just need to focus on interest and excitement of books and other reading materials.

There has been a lot of focus recently about teaching boys. I get frustrated when any groups of children are spilt up based on something as arbitrary as gender. Lots of girls like climbing trees and lots of boys like cooking, it's impossible to generalise in this way. A particular bug-bear of mine are gender specific book covers. Just like we can't find any Clarks shoes for our daughter that aren't pink, it's hard to find a Jacqueline Wilson book that a boy is going to pick up of the library shelf, but I know a lot would get a lot out of them.


Meet me at the Steelmen (Meadowhall)

Yesterday, I met some Reading Matters collegaues at Meadowhall. Firstly I couldn't believe how busy it was on a Monday morning.

Secondly it reminded me of a book I have been meaning to blog about. Meet me by The Steelmen, is one of four Time Slip adventures by Theresa Thomlinson. In these stories children are whisked off to times past due to a historical connection with a place they visit. In Meet me by The Steelmen Jenny visits the steelmen from the statue in the shopping centre, in their own time at Hadfield's Steelworks which stood on the site Meadowhall was built.

The books are beautifully done, making strong connections between modern children and somewhere they might visit. The short lengths, accessibility and use of illustrations makes them similar to the excellent Barrington Stoke books I have been reviewing.

The other title I have read, with another Sheffield link, is Errand Lass. A painting in the Millennium Galleries, transports Maddy back to the time of the Buffer Girls. The experience gives her to courage to deal with issues in her own life. Great Stuff.

I think a book or any sort of reading material that a reader can relate to is going to be ideal for a reading partnership. I have added a few more books with a Sheffield/Rotherham connection to our Amazon store. Let me know if you have other similar ideas.

[pic credit: lovestruck94]


Problems with a Python by Jeremy Strong - Barrington Stoke Book 33

I love the way Problems with a Python starts, with a great big full-page illustration that really sets the scene. The text gets going quickly too. Gary is going away for a week so Adam nervously agrees to look after his pet snake. Safe to say the week does not go smoothly!

As you'd expect from Jeremy Strong it is written in a very jokey way, but still very believable and factually specific (it's an Indian Python). All the characters are excellent. I personally really related to Rob, the Weedy boyfriend of Adam's big sister. The snake is scary enough but Emma is worse! Adam himself is easy to empathise with, he is so naughty, it's hard to believe he gets away with it.

Adam is in Year 6 and I think this is the perfect sort of age range for readers. The story is just on the edge of believability, I know children of this age would love the idea of loosing a snake in their school.


Rose and Roald - Two important birthdays

Today, 13 September, is my daughter Rose's second birthday. It is also the day Roald Dahl was born. I am very pleased that every year Rose will be sharing her birthday with Roald Dahl Day.

A key part of Roald Dahl Day in 2010 is the Roald Dahl Reading Relay; read three Roald Dahl books during September to December. The first 5,000 entrants win an exclusive I'm a Revolting Reader badge.

The Reading Zone has a great list of some of the other activities taking place.


Bloodlines by Kevin Brooks - Barrington Stoke Book 32

After the previous Kevin Brooks book I read, Jonhny Delgado, Bloodline had a lot to live up to. And it does, the story zips along like a Danny Boyle film.

Actually, the first Chapter starts very slowly, four generations of men bored in a dark room.But by the end of the chapter they are in a full-blown hostage situation.

It's a real chapter book, with cliff-hangers and chapter titles taken from the text. There is also a bit of swearing and no pictures, so definitely for older readers.

Finbar is our 15 year-old narrator, he tells the tale of the beautiful kidnapper with a very insightful voice. There are some great descriptions, grandad gets up like a "skinny old monster wearing a cardigan". None of the characters are the stereotypes I expected, at one point grandad states "I didn't ask to be born", That's something you'd expect from the teenager, but Finbar seems like the most good-hearted member of the whole family.

The five people in the story are all deeply flawed, and everyone has been double-crossed before the story plays out. I like the fact that even by then end, we are not sure if Finbar has done the right thing or not.

My only criticism is the cover, I don't think it really reflects what the story is all about, which is a shame, because it's great.


8 September is International Literacy Day

Today is International Literacy Day. Founded by UNESCO, International Literacy Day raises awareness of the importance of literacy across the globe.

The TES have a nice set of resourses to celebrate the day.


Mood Boosting Books for World Mental Health Day

To prepare for World Mental Health Day on 10 October why, check out the selection of Mood Boosting Books on the BBC Headroom pages.

Put together by the Reading Agency, it is a great list for adult readers. Maybe you could think of other titles for younger readers?