Friday, 24 May 2013

Children's books and social justice: refugees and other stories

With Refugee Week Scotland coming up soon, it's great to report that the inaugural Little Rebels Children's Book Award, run by the Alliance of Radical Booksellers, has been won by a powerful refugee story. Azzi in between, by Sarah Garland, tells, in graphic format, of the frightening journey undertaken by Azzi and her parents, who have to leave their home because it is too dangerous to stay in their own country. Azzi is sad because she had to leave her beloved grandmother behind and because she can't speak the language of her new country. However, Garland shows how kindness and friendship can overcome feelings of difference, and there is a happy ending involving both the arrival of Grandma and a bag of beans! It's not hard to find books with empathetic portrayals of refugees for older children and teens, so it's good to see one for the younger market. For more information about the book and the prize, see the Federation of Children's Book Groups site.

Zoe Toft, of the excellent Playing by the Book blog, has been compiling a list of other books exploring the refugee experience. It's too long to reproduce here (and as yet, there is no online link) but she does point to some other online resources, notably Refugee Week's list of resources for children and the following bibliography:

Collecting Children's Refugee Literature: A Bibliography by Elisa Mason
March 2009; links checked September 2010

Closer to home, don't forget the children's booklist, Refugees, from the University of Strathclyde

Finally, another prize dedicated to social justice and equality issues is the Frances Lincoln Diverse Voices Children's Book Award, which has just announced its winner for 2013, and there is a new(ish) blog Ink & Pen with the tagline "Thoughts on diversity in YA and children's literature".

Friday, 17 May 2013

We have lift off!

This lovely picture book by Sean Taylor and Hannah Shaw has lots of appealing factors for young readers - animals, a space rocket and a good dose of humour. In addition, there's a strong environmental message.

Farmer Tanner keeps his animals in cramped conditions and pollutes his farm with junk. At the same time, his own house gets bigger and bigger - and the animals get madder and madder! They decide to build an intergalactic rocket to escape to the clear, clean stars where there are no humans to mess things up. Unfortunately, none of the animals can quite get the hang of the test flight and then - horror of horrors - Farmer Tanner discovers the rocket! You can probably guess the twist that is coming next - suffice it to say, the farmer is never seen again and the book ends with a stern warning that "if you're one of the people who makes a mess of our planet - WATCH OUT! It could be your turn next!"

Thanks to the publishers, Frances Lincoln Children's Books,who supplied this book via a Youth Libraries Group draw. Neither required me to write a review. We have lift off will now find a happy home in my local library.

PS 22/5/13 - here's a fabulous review from of We have lift-off! from Playing by the Book, including follow-up activity ideas

Wednesday, 1 May 2013

Book Week Scotland 2013 announced

Cabinet Secretary for Culture and External Affairs Fiona Hyslop and Scottish authors Denise Mina, Richard Holloway and Mairi Hedderwick show off their treasures, as Scottish Book Trust launches a hunt for the nation’s cherished objects. The Treasures campaign invites Scots to submit a piece of writing about the item they hold most dear, with a free book featuring the best stories and poems to be given out during Book Week Scotland, running from 25 November to 1 December this year. Photo credit Rob McDougall  

Scotland will host a second national celebration of reading in 2013, Culture Secretary Fiona Hyslop announced today. Following the success of last year's event, the second Book Week Scotland (BWS) will be delivered by Scottish Book Trust from November 25 to December 1, 2013. One of the best features last year was My favourite place, a writing project which resulted in a free book for distribution during BWS, and this year the same project is taking place with the theme Treasures - see the photograph above. Entries can be submitted online for inclusion on Treasures website, and possible inclusion in a printed anthology, until July 31 at 5pm. Further details of BWS events will be released later in the year. In the meantime, keep an eye on the website, follow @Bookweekscot on Twitter, check out #bookweekscot or like the Book Week Scotland Facebook page. BWS is initiated by the Scottish Government and supported by £250,000 from Creative Scotland.

Photo credit Rob McDougall
This is a great initiative, especially for fostering a love of reading in children. Many children's authors, such as Mairi Hedderwick, seen here with her treasure, take part in events in schools and libraries all over Scotland. As Fiona Hyslop said, last year: "more than 30,000 pupils engaged with Book Week Scotland activities. All of this has supported the development of our nation’s important relationship with books and reading. Teachers have told us that Book Week Scotland had a positive impact on their pupils’ interest in reading and writing and that it was well supported in schools." I can't wait!