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Back to the Classroom!

Hopefully by now you’re starting to feel like you can let out the breath you’ve been holding for the past four or five months. Students and teachers are back at school, parents are returning to their places of work, and we can catch up with friends and family. Thoughts are also turning towards the summer holidays and the break we have all more than earned. Before then, however, there are still so many amazing books to share with you!

In the picture book, Beatrice Was a Tree, we meet Beatrice, a child with a deep love for trees and a very active imagination. When her mother calls her in for dinner, Beatrice imagines what her life would be like if she were a tree: the animals she would shelter; the way her leaves would change with the seasons; and how she would nourish herself. Along the way the reader learns about the different parts of trees, how they interact with their environment, and their essential part in the ecosystem. Beautiful illustrations reflect the wonder of the natural world, as well as taking us from the tips of Beatrice’s leaves waving in the wind, all the way down to her roots deep in the soil. An entertaining book that children will love exploring.

From the creators of last year’s wonderful picture book, The Great Realisation, comes its companion, The World Awaits. This lovely book begins with a boy rousing his younger brother from sleep. When his brother is feel unable to face the day, he explains the difference that we can all make to the world. This incredibly timely story is wonderful in its explanation of how even the smallest acts of kindness – smiling at a stranger, cuddling a cat, playing music – can contribute to the total of human happiness, and ultimately make the world a better place. Stunning illustrations use colour and symbol to great effect. A great book to use with students (and adults) who may be struggling to readjust to the world after lockdown.

One thing that will always be true is the way in which space fascinates people of all ages; we continue to be entranced by the night sky and the mysteries it holds. One of the most effective communicators of this topic is Brian Cox, who has a unique ability to convey what scientists understand about space in a way which is easily understood by those of us without degrees in astrophysics, but also doesn’t speak down to us and always reflects the awe and wonder of his audience. So, it’s thrilling that following on from The Planets, we now have The Universe, which features an introduction from Brian Cox, and photographs and text from Andrew Cohen, with some help from NASA. Some of the written content may go over the heads of younger children, but students of all ages will find the stunning photography absolutely captivating. This is a spectacular look at our universe and our attempts to answer the question of how it all began.

Read of the Month – The Grave Tattoo

For those of you who are regular readers of this blog, you already know that I am a big fan of crime fiction, so it will come as no surprise to learn that I also love a procedural crime drama on TV. While my current go-to is Vera (I love her no-nonsense style and ability to fool people into thinking she’s a sweet old lady before she goes in for the kill), one of my favourite shows as a teenager was Wire in the Blood, and thus I came across the amazing Val McDermid.

While The Grave Tattoo is not one of the books that became part of Wire in the Blood, it does mix ‘real world’ crime with a literary mystery in a very satisfying way. At the heart of the story is the possibility that Fletcher Christian secretly returned to England and visited his childhood friend, William Wordsworth, and that this visit resulted in an epic work from Wordsworth about the mutiny on the Bounty.

The book opens with the discovery of a body in the bogs of the Lake District, a body which has mysterious tattoos and thus revives the local story about Christian’s return. However, this discovery is the catalyst for contemporary crime and spurs on several different groups of people who are searching for the possible missing poem by Wordsworth; one that if found would be worth a considerable amount of money.

In the present day, the story revolves around Jane Gresham, a Wordsworth scholar who grew up near his home but now lives on a council estate in London, and her 13-year-old neighbour, Tenille, a young woman with a remarkable understanding of Romantic poetry, but a less than stable home life.

Pulling together a diverse cast of characters, and a series of crimes that may or may not be inter-connected, The Grave Tattoo weaves together a face-paced story that spans several centuries. A great way to spend a weekend.

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