Book Monitor - books from across the world

Engaging reads for children, from Books go Walkabout

Joanna Grochowicz, Antarctic Explorer author, Zooms to Shrewsbury International School Hong Kong

Joanna and statue of Amundsen

Shrewsbury International School, Hong Kong have been working with Books Go Walkabout for some years. We had planned a wonderful author visit to the school in October 2019, by Joanna Grochowicz, New Zealand author of Polar Explorers. But then the Hong Kong protests meant it was no longer safe.

With children still working from home, due to Covid 19, in the spring of 2020, Beth McNeilly, school librarian and a passionate believer in the benefit of direct contact with authors, helped us to find a way. So, along with three quarters of the world in June 2020 we used Zoom. And hey it was fantastic!

We had over 300 children, staff and parents joining the Zoom presentation with Joanna. We found our way to the Antarctic; where Joanna had visited in February this year, we reached the South Pole, and saw the photographer Ponting taking a photo of killer whales, we heard that the ice block he was standing on was upended by the whales, but he managed to escape, which was good as they would have eaten him.

Joanna in disguise as Herbert Ponting

There was so much fascinating detail of the journeys of both R.F Scott from the UK, and R. Amundsen from Norway in the early 1900’s, that the stories of adventure, courage, determination, skill and expertise were incredible. All the stories which brought the presentation and the books to life had been meticulously researched by Joanna with visits to many places to gather the story behind the journey. Joanna visited Scott Polar Research Institute in Cambridge, UK, where she also came to Books Go Walkabout office.

Joanna in disguise as Amundsen

Her books are just made for reading, the first in the series is, Into the White, Scott’s Antarctic Odyssey and her second book is, Amundsen’s Way, with her third book about Shackleton being published later this year. They are some incredible stories and immensely well written, good for ages above 9 years and including all adults.

Into the White

We are indebted to Shrewsbury International School, Hong Kong for their perseverance in enabling the visit for Joanna to take place and especially to Beth McNeilly and staff for their commitment to the project and of course, to all the children who joined into the presentation. It must have been as hard for them to sit still for an hour without asking direct questions as it was for Joanna to present her stories to many, many black screens.

Amundsen's Way - The Race to the South Pole

We hope that one day all will be well and international travel will enable Joanna to make a direct visit to Hong Kong. But there is also so much scope now for children to have virtual visits with authors who have so much to bring to learning and adventure.

At Books Go Walkabout, we are committed to an international dimension to with books, and authors; stories across the world and knowledge transfer through reading and sharing.

Sue Martin

Creating Poetry during Lockdown

In this global pandemic we have been thinking of just how to reach out to others across the world.  Poetry is a way of finding and releasing feelings.  

And do you know what, children are so good at it! 

Cheryl is a profoundly interesting, engaging and empathetic poet – with children or adults…we think so!

Cheryl Moskowitz is a poet, narrator and writer who works with us at Books Go Walkabout . Since March 2020, when school closures were announced in the UK, Cheryl has been talking to children, their parents and staff at schools. What is life like in this Covid19 world?

Shrewsbury School, Hong Kong is an International School and have experienced huge amount of lock-down time at school. Beth McNeilly, the school librarian talked about a plan with Books Go Walkabout to get children writing. A poem from Wilfred is shown on the page in the link above, what a star!

A great school, committed to poetry and creativity…

At Books Go Walkabout we put the two together and Cheryl and Beth worked on a poetry plan for children in Years 1 and 2. We Zoomed across the world and heard the most amazing poems, and it all started with a poem of Cheryl’s that begins…

Just supposing…

you woke up tomorrow

and there weren’t all these rules

like: YOU HAVE TO STAY HOME!

and: YOU CAN’T GO TO SCHOOL!

The children wrote and they wrote, and they came up with the most amazing collections of thoughts, poems and words( vocabulary was awesome!)

Parents and teachers and librarians were part of the video, the writing and the Zoom session. It was a BRILLIANT session. Releasing fears and worries, turning them into creative and imaginative pieces of written work.

Great job Shrewsbury and Cheryl!! At Books Go Walkabout we loved it! You can read more on Books Go Walkabout.

Sue Martin


The Boy, The Mole, The Fox and the Horse by Charlie Mackesy

A story of friendship, love, care and challenge.

I  discovered this book whilst browsing in my favourite bookshop in London. I was on a training course at the time and was delighted to have found this inspirational, beautiful and emotive book I showed it to my colleagues. 

To my surprise, most of the people in the room had already bought the book and were overwhelmed with it. And so, as I journeyed home that evening I slowly went through all the pages, the drawings, the meaning in the text said so much, and the inspiration on life was wonderful.

The Boy, the Mole, the Fox and the Horse is a story of friendship, love, care and challenge. The characters are brought together gradually, with the boy first, who is lonely until he meets the mole, who loves cake. They meet the fox, not easy if you are a mole, but fox has been hurt by life and is mainly silent. The horse is the largest and the gentlest of characters and carries them through a lot.

The format of the book is water-colour illustrations with hand written text on creamy tactile paper  and feels such a precious book. The author, Charlie Mackesy, hopes that the book will be well used and I’m sure he is right, although I am not sure I could also make notes on it as he suggests. It is still sitting by my chair looking new, although well read. It is a book for quiet moments and for sharing with others too.

Charlie Mackesy is an artist, a thinker and a creator of inspirational ‘stuff’ about life.  

Penguin Publishers are a huge publishers, and full of creative and new authors, and The Boy, the Mole, the Fox and the Horse is in a beautiful format which highlights the inspirational text and illustration.

What a joy!

Sue Martin

Books from around the world

The Explorer by Katherine Rundell

A tale full of adventure, exploration and excitement as four children find their way home from the deepest part of the Amazon jungle.

A pacy and exciting book, nearly impossible to put down and with an ending that does more than just conclude the story; as life is at risk and new skills have to be learnt so fast. 

A tale full of adventure, exploration and excitement

Four children, who had never met before, are flying  across the Amazon jungle, when the pilot loses consciousness and the plane crashes into the trees. Fred, Lila, her little brother Max and a girl called Con have to help each other to; find food, survive the creepy crawlies and to escape. On their way they find a map, make a raft and discover a ruined city, where they meet The Explorer, who is not exactly friendly but helpful in an eccentric way. But in a terrifying situation they are forced to leave as quickly as they could. 

 Katherine Rundell, author of The Rooftoppers is an award winning author who  lives in Oxford, UK and The Explorer was; Winner of the Children’s Book Prize 2017, winner of the Costa Children’s Book Award 2017 and winner of the London Book Fair Children’s Travel Book of the Year for 2017. She has an amazing talent for creating adventure and in this book she brings her love of places and adventure to children’s minds.

Publishers are Bloomsbury who have created The Explorer in paperback filled with black and white chapter headed illustrations and beautiful sketches throughout the book.

Wonderful storytelling, delightfully delivered…

It’s a truly great book and children of all ages will love the adventure, the sense of place, the maps, the ruined city and see themselves as one of the characters, in an adventure of a lifetime. 

In the video clip Katherine introduces  The Explorer and you can just feel her own love of adventure which creeps in every corner of the book.

A must read for lockdown 2020 and for anytime at all, home, school and library. 

Sue Martin 


 

Sofia the Dreamer and her Magical Afro by Jessica Wilson

When Sofia has her hair styled she magically falls asleep and in her dreams visits a Jamaican Rastafarian,a black panther and an African ancestor. In Sofia’s Afro are tight coils which hide stories of joy, heroes, social situations and fascinations. An amazing book in a new style of genre of illustrated poem-story.

Jessica Wilson is the author and is an Aesthetica Award finalist with achieving a Go Fund Me award in March 2018. Her talent is incredible and this style of poems with illustrations is a powerful way to reach out to children and adults too. The rhythm and rhyme of the story lends it to being read aloud and plants the work within Caribbean oral story-telling traditions.

Jessica resides between Jamaica and London and is currently working on her first poetry collection entitled ‘The Bulldog and the Hummingbird’ (available on 5th June 2020) which was shortlisted by Penguin Random House for their ‘Write Now’ initiative held in conjunction with the BBC to promote diversity in writing.  Jessica was trained in English Literature at University College London (BA) and was awarded an MA in Fashion Journalism by London College of Fashion.

The illustrations are by Tom Rawles, who lives in Bristol and he specialises in album covers and Renaissance-inspired scenes of contemporary culture where, he states, “halos are more bling than holy”.  His eye-catching scapes were described by influential community, Afropunk as both ‘stylized’ and ‘surreal’.

The picture-book was designed by Paul Martin of threeshadesred . Martin’s aesthetic is minimalist with a strong focus on clean lines and colour association.

Sofia the Dreamer tells the stories with meaning and emotion, using illustrations to engage with children in the balance of social history and modern day culture between different places; a bridge over the oceans. A wonderful book to have.

Buy this great book securely on-line:

http://www.jessica-wilson.com/buy-books/sofia-the-dreamer-and-her-magical-afro-by-jessica-wilson-paperback

See also: https://tallawahpublishing.com/

Tallawah Publishing was founded in response to the need for diversity in the publishing industry. We are committed to telling the best unheard stories of the Caribbean and Caribbean diaspora and amplify voices at the interstices. We also seek to offer support to writers of African and Caribbean descent. Founded by writer Jessica N. Wilson”.

Sue Martin

Hasina by Michelle Aung Thin -Through My Eyes Series

A gripping story of one child’s experience of the refugee crisis in Myanmar. The men come at night. The first Hasina knows of it is her aunt’s voice, urgent,full of fear.’Up, up.Get up! ‘The second thing is smoke.Then there is a scream.’Run,’ her father shouts. ‘And don’t stop!’

Hasina races deep into the Rakhine forest to hide with her cousin Ghadiya and her little brother, Araf. When they emerge some days later, it is to a silent, smouldering village. Their own house has not been burnt down,but where are the rest of her family?Perhaps they have been gathered up and taken away … or worse.

So many Rohingyas are gone, how will she survive? Will her parents return? Hasina must find the courage to save her family amid the escalating conflict that threatens her world and her identity. 

Hasina is written by Michelle Aung Thin who tells this story, based on real life, with immense feeling and with the real sense of a child’s helplessness, in fear but still retaining courage and hope. Michelle is a novelist, essayist and an academic and this book written for children and young adults shows her ability to reach out to all.  

There are excellent teacher notes available for school use only on Michelle’s website to accompany Hasina and would fit with curriculum across the world for ages 11-14 years. 

Allen and Unwin are the publishers and Hasina joins one of my favourite series, Through My Eyes, which recount world crisis and tragedies through the eyes of children and young people.  

As I write this we are in a lock-down, in the Covid 19 period in the UK. Unable to do my usual travels I have really enjoyed this amazing book and maybe I should travel to Burma/Myanmar soon? 

Sue Martin 

The Surprising Power of a Good Dumpling by Wai Chim

Anna Chiu has her hands full looking after her siblings and helping out at her Dad’s restaurant, all while her Mum stays in bed. The new delivery boy Rory, is a welcome distraction and even though things aren’t right at home, Anna starts to feel like she could be a normal teen,

But her Mum’s condition gets worse, life becomes increasingly hard for Anna as between them they have lots to work out.

An incredibly good story about life as a young person, moving from childhood to adulthood in a world which seems to be increasingly difficult and foreign. A time when you really do need your Mum. But for Anna, her Mum really needs her.

A powerful and moving story from Wai Chim, the highly acclaimed author, whose previous novel ,Freedom Swimmer, was a huge success. Following the stories of young people in the changing world of China then and now, Wai has a great eye for understanding of young people as they face their own dilemmas as well as difficult situations.

Published by Allen and Unwin from Australia, this book crosses geographical boundaries and unites all children as they move into adulthood.

A wonderful book to sit and read. the story and text are real page turners. Highly recommended for any persiond when you just need a good book to read.

Sue Martin

A King’s Armour- Book Two in The Chronicles of Will Ryde and Awa Maryam Al-Jameel

The story is set in Istanbul, 1592. In the court of Sultan Murad the Third, where a mysterious manuscript arrives claiming to know the location of the fabled armour of King David.

The Sultan goes into melt down to discover the site of the armour, so frantic is he to be the bearer of the armour and gain the protection of the legendary breast plate.

He has never led armies into battle but with this armour he would be sure of success, or so he believes.

This is the second in the series of The Chronicles of Will Ryde and Awa Maryam Al-Jameel and is an action-packed adventure in Istanbul. A story about unity and how a diverse set of individuals work together to seek a common goal.

Will and Awa, our protagonists, navigate, trying to keep true to their values yet weary of their obligations to their imperial overlords.” Rehan Khan.

Rehan was born in London and now lives in Dubai with his family, where he also works as a visiting professor in an international business school. His first book in the series; A Tudor Turk was a great success and is nominated for The Cilip Carnegie Medal 2020.

Hope Road Publishing is an independent publisher promoting literature with a focus on Africa, Asia and the Caribbean, along with neglected and often unheard voices. They have some enormously good books with  wonderful diversity.

A King’s Armour is an amazing book, packed with adventure, intrigue and history. The characters are brought to life by the expertise of the author and the story carries on at a pace that makes turning every page a joy.

Exceptionally worth reading and buying for children ages 9-14 or thereabouts. Great for home, school or library and would ably support other curriculum areas in school.

Sue Martin

The Story of Inventions by Catherine Barr & Steve Williams, illustrated by Amy Husband

The Story of Inventions is just the book for anyone interested in  discoveries and uses today. From wheels and lodestones to vaccines and engines, this book is packed with information and illustrations which bring life to the words.

The page on flight, for instance, explains that for many years planes were only used for cargo. But now planes fill our skies carrying people all over the world, making the world a smaller place.

Surprisingly, the idea of computers was first invented in 1830’s with machines to do the maths. By the 1940’s computers were used to crack codes which helped to finish the second world war. Today we would be totally lost without them.

Catherine Barr is well know for her books for Frances Lincoln Publishers; especially The Story of Life and The Story of Space. She has worked for the Natural History Museum, among other places and is a keen author of non fiction titles with enormous appeal.  Steve Williams is a biologist, a teacher and beekeeper ,as well as an ardent writer of interesting books for children.

Amy Husband is a talented, award winning illustrator and her illustrations in this book are brilliantly supportive of the text.

A book for me to read this evening and I am sure I will find out and remember much about inventions that I never knew before.

Sue Martin

Wild in the Streets- 20 Poems of City Animals

This is a captivating book full of poems about different animals living in cities across the world. A book of adaptation; bats, boars, coyotes, huntsman spiders, honeybees and reticulated pythons. Poems which reflect the nature of the animal and its new habitat and at the back is a glossary with  different types of poems like cinquains to sonnets, and acrostics to reversos.

‘It may be hard to believe that wildlife can survive among the densely packed houses, huge skyscrapers, tarmac, pavements and sewers. Some animals were there before humans encroached on their territory and others have been introduced on purpose, like the Honeybees in Vancouver.’ Marilyn Singer

Reticulated pythons were in Singapore before the city existed and survive in the sewers and waterway, living on rats, cats and birds. Monarch butterflies have long migrations but at the end of the summer gather in Pacific Grove,California before travelling north again in the Spring.

Marilyn Singer is the author and Gordy Wright is the illustrator and they have combined their talents to produce this beautiful book published by Words and Pictures.

An exciting and inspiring way to think about animals in our cities.

Sue Martin

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