And just like that it’s March (seriously, what is happening to time?!). The start of autumn, Easter and the school holidays are on the horizon — 2021 is in full swing. This month on the blog, I’m featuring children’s books full of wonder and hope. Books full of beauty in different ways, whether it’s illustrations, ideas or characters. I hope you enjoy them.
Many of you will remember What Do You Call Your Grandpa?, which came out last year. This year it’s the grandmas’ turn! The stunning What Do You Call Your Grandma? features Nonnas, Jajas and MeeMaws in all their glory. From New Zealand we meet a Kui who loves to bushwalk, from Kenya there’s a Bibi who is as soccer obsessed as her grandson, and from South Africa we meet a Makhulu who tells amazing stories. Wherever your students are from, and whatever they call their grandma, they’re sure to love the stunning illustrations and amazing women in these pages.
Another picture book on the list this month is the stunning While You’re Sleeping. This book looks at all the activity that goes on in the world while children are safely tucked up in bed — from street cleaning to children at schools on the other side of the world, through to foxes finding food to ships sailing across the ocean. This delightful book is a thought-provoking wonder! The illustrations, created using a combination of ink work and collage (check out the illustrator’s fascinating explanation of his process here), are full of texture and detail. Each time students read it, they’re sure to discover more. Classroom resources are available.
In many ways Sander is a typical fifteen-year-old; he enjoys videos games and photography, but hates PE class. However, thanks to Silver-Russell syndrome, he is also One in a Hundred Thousand. This means that he is ‘not the strongest’, ‘not the fastest’, and ‘not the biggest’ in his class, and people always assume he’s younger than his age. But Sander has a gift he’s proud of: he notices things that other people don’t, and this means he comes to know things and understand people in a way that others don’t. Fitting in when you’re a teenager is hard, even when you don’t have visible differences, but Sander has a lot to learn about himself, and that sometimes standing out is a good thing.
Read of the Month – They Came to Baghdad
By now, I’m sure you’re all aware of my love of crime fiction and I’m sure it will come as absolutely no surprise to learn that my enduring love of the genre comes from the absolute master, Agatha Christie. Usually my preference is for Poirot, but I have read and reread those books so often that they hold little surprise for me anymore. While sometimes that’s what I’m after, recently I sought the comfort of knowing a mystery would be resolved, but with the suspense of not knowing (or recalling) the plot. For this assurance, I turned to They Came to Baghdad.
They Came to Baghdad is one of the lesser-known Agatha Christies, partly because it doesn’t feature one of her recurring detectives, instead relying on an ensemble of characters to unfold the drama and solve the crime. In this case the protagonist is Victoria Jones, a determined young woman who follows a man she met once to Baghdad and then finds herself embroiled in a clandestine plot to change the world. Along the way Victoria receives help from a man who may or may not be MI6, a famous explorer and eventually the young man she had been following. She’s also kidnapped, joins an archaeological dig and finds love.
They Came to Baghdad moves at a much faster pace than many of Christie’s better-known stories, includes a wealth of suspects and a crime that isn’t entirely clear until the very end. It’s a great way to escape for a few hours!