Jeremy Strong's Campaign for Fun

Author Jeremy Strong is looking for the funniest school in the UK and Ireland with his Campaign for Fun.

By being a bit silly you could win all sorts of cool stuff! Mr Strong also has some nice
downloadable resources to check out. He has also introduced the Campaign for Fun in an article on The Guardian website. He list all sorts of great books to cheer us all up:

For something a bit more involved but no less fun how about The Reading Zone's picture book competition.


A Kind of Magic by Catherine MacPhail - Barrington Stoke Book 38

A Kind of Magic by Catherine MacPhail is another book that Barrington Stoke don't seem to be publishing any more. Like Turnaround by Alison Prince, that I review previously, I think this is a shame. It is a mischievous little book that is bound to appeal to a certain audience.

A found or stolen fossil may or may not be magic. Either way the results include zits, the runs and a bit of snogging! It's pretty disgusting in places, perfect for a certain type of young person!

Despite, the gruesomeness, some interesting themes are explored; guilt, morality, the cause and effect of our actions. Two such ideas are quoted by characters in the story:
  • You get what you wish for
  • You get out of this word what you put in

A cheeky book like this, is a great way to explore these themes with a reading partner.


Map of The Voyage of the Silver Bream

I am currently looking for books with a local, connection. With this in mind The Voyage of the Silver Bream by Theresa Tomlinson has been a revelation. It is based in an area I know well, The Sheffield Canal and River Don. I have a bit of a thing for old industrial areas, and have spent a lot of time mooching about in those areas. The Voyage of the Silver Bream gives these locations an involving historical context.

The geographical setting feels very close to home, but so are the central themes. The family in the story are forced to adjust to new economic circumstances, as the railways take-over from the canals. I know a lot of families that are having to make similar changes today as the availability and security of jobs and education changes.

Perhaps I am feeling all too emotional, but some of the passages that describe the family pulling together really brought a tear to my eye.

I was so caught up in the book, I plotted the locations on an online map, which I have shared below. I think this is a really nice way to explore a story or factual account, especially one set in a local area or on a topic you want to explore. A good idea for a reading partnership, I think.

View The Voyage of the Silver Bream in a larger map

The Voyage of the Silver Bream by Theresa Tomlinson is part of a series called Victorian Flashbacks, there is a Victorian Flashbacks: Teachers' Guide which looks like it would provide plenty of resources to explore the stories further.


Snakebite by Robert Swindells - Barrington Stoke Book 37

According to the Author's Note Snakebite by Robert Swindells is inspired by a Bradford journalist, so just about qualifies for my search for books with a local connection. In fact, judging by the language, it seems to be set in Glasgow (although I am basing this on a view viewings of Trainspotting and the Chritopher Brookmyre books I have been reading recently.

Where ever it's set, Snakebite is a smart read, with an engaging narrative direct from Alex, the unemployed, bullied main narrator. He's into animals and gets a snake for his seventeenth birthday. Because he's lonely, bored and scared of the violent gang members on the estate, he starts taking the snake out with him.

Almost inevitably the snake in the pocket comes into it's own. but not before the bullying becomes pretty scary. It is made worse by some very dark undertones. Alex's parents are oblivious, the police don't care and the gang are linked in with some serious drug gangs.

The use of language, "acting the numpty" and Alex's general upbeat demeanour take the edge of what would otherwise be a terrifying tale.