Book Monitor - books from across the world

Engaging reads for children, from Books go Walkabout

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 

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

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

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


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!

A great school…

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

Amazing Women of the Middle East – 25 Stories to inspire girls everywhere by Wafa’ Tarnowska

Truly amazing women

This is a book you will enjoy from cover to cover!

From Nefertititi, a beautiful and powerful Queen,to Zahra Lari, incredible ice skater, this book brings a huge dimension to the creative and powerful influence of women in the Middle East.

Discover Sheherazade, the famous storyteller, dive into the musical world of singer Fairuz, and meet Nadia Murad, Nobel Peace Prize Winner. Here in one unique volume are twenty-five outstanding women from the Middle East, who have created a legacy through strength of vision, leadership, courage and sheer determination.

Written by award-winning children’s author and trailblazer, Wafa’ Tarnowska, this unique collection of short biographies is illustrated with stunning, contemporary art by five internationally recognised artists.

There is so much amazing information in this book which will provide a further valuable insight into the world of the Middle East. Whichever era may interest you, there will be a remarkable story about a woman with insight and vision.

Amal looney – Human Rights lawyer

Maybe my favourites are Sheherazade in 9th Century BCE, the daughter of the vizier, and a storyteller, writing about tales on the Silk Road from China to Arabia; and Amal Clooney, a modern-day Human Rights lawyer, whose quote is, “ Giving up is not an option!

Wafa’ Tarnowska is the award-winning author of Arabian Nights, published by Barefoot Books. Wafa’ has a large repertoire of work including several children’s books, many translated into numerous languages. She also translates plays and books including Victoria and Abdul, which was then made into a film. In 2018, Wafa’ performed Palestinian stories with Jumana Emile Abboud at the Tate Modern in London.

The illustrations in the book are beautiful with an amazing use of colour and different styles throughout.

Pikku Publishers produce the most beautiful books and Amazing Women from the Middle East is a special book in their collection. The hardback book is a joy to have and each page has its own individual colour and shade. Pikku Publishers produce quality books for children in schools and at home and they reach far across the globe in sales and achievements.

If I could step outside my door today and buy one book, this is the one that I would choose. such a good book.

Sue Martin

The Island at the End of Everything by Kiran Millwood Hargrave

This book is a delight…compassionate, hopeful and ultimately redemptive

A remarkable book following a young girl through separation, disease and loss through remarkable courage and determination to make things right. It was shortlisted for the Costa Children’ s Book Award 2017

Ami lives with her sick mother on an island where the sea is as blue as the sky. It’s all she knows and loves, but the arrival of a cruel government official, Mr Zamora, changes her world for ever. Her island is to become a leprosy colony. Ami is banished to an orphanage across the water, where she meets a girl whose name means butterflies, and together they set out to find a way home to the island at the end of everything.

This is a book full of intriguing decisions , and cunning looks into the people who have made them, without little thought of the effect on others. It brings together the need for understanding and compassion. It shows how young people can so often break through rules that are plainly wrong.

I loved reading the book , recommended to me by the librarian at Shrewsbury International School, Hong Kong, and will now find further books by Kiran Millwood Hargrave.

Published by Chicken House Books, The Island at the End of Everything is part of a great collection of books in a huge range of genres. Their list for Summer Reading 2020 looks fantastic, about to start on the next exciting read.

Sue Martin

Belonging Street – Poems by Mandy Coe

At a time when we definitely need poems to lighten our load, to find some of our hidden feelings and to express joy and laughter, Belonging Street brings a wonderful collection of poems from a popular poet, encompassing the natural world, city life and family belonging.

Much needed poetry….

Two of the poems especially appealed to me; My Name is Grey , with a verse

I am the owl’s wing and winter sky,

I leap in the mad March hare.

I hide in the hedgehog’s prickles,

And sleep in the wolf’s thick fur.

And My Name is Blue,

I am the kingfisher’s pride

and the boat’s wide sail.

Belonging Street includes poems to encourage empathy, a sense of belonging and care for our planet- an important collection for our time.

Mandy Coe, the poet, performs in schools and workshops in the UK and you can listen to Mandy read her poems on the BBC Teach School Radio.

Otter Barry have a great range of poetry books in their collection , which they publish four times a year. They are an exciting children’s imprint aiming to make a difference, push boundaries and publish books that children will love.

At Books Go walkabout we are passionate about empowering young voices and never has their been a time when this is more needed, so welcome and enjoy Belonging Street.

Sue Martin

Dear Ugly Sisters, poems by Laura Mucha and illustrated by Tania Rex

Great poetry!

An outstanding new voice in children’s poetry with her debut collection full of varied, effervescent and thought provoking poems.

Laura has already achieved much through literacy events, poetry workshops and blog writing and this brand new venture into a book of her poems is a great way for us all to find her poems at our finger tips.

Read the poem Dear Ugly Sisters below,

Laura Mucha is an award winning poet, author and speaker. She has won two international poetry prizes, the Caterpillar {poetry Prize, 2016 and the inaugural YorkMix Poems for Children 2019. She also writes for adults too with her debut book, Love Factually/We Need to Talk About Love published in 2019.

Tania Rex was born and raised in Bilnius, Lithuania, where she still lives and graduated from Vilnius Academy of Art.

Otter-Barry Books publishes four poetry collections a year and is an imprint which pushes the boundaries for publication in the world of children’s book publishing.

Sue Martin

How to Design a Novel – Rehan Khan

Rehan Khan, author of Carnegie nominated ‘ Tudor Turk’ will be running a live 2 day course on; How to write and design a novel, on 12-13th December 2020. (...this is an entrance fee event, see link below…Ed.)

You can register for this event herehttps://courses.rehankhan.com/Pjr25

We know there are many of our blog readers who would love to write a book themselves. Maybe you are one of those? Do you have a story inside you to tell? Do you love reading and would like to to write a book? This course may be just right for you.

Rehan is the author of A Tudor Turk and A King’s Armour, an historic fiction series with Hope Road Publishers. They are great books and bring a totally new dimension to that period in history.

This is a unique opportunity and the focus on designing the novel will enable a way into writing. Finding the backdrop of the story, providing the setting, thinking about the characters, planning and enabling some hooks for the story to unfold.

In the UK as we head into lockdown 2, maybe this will give you some inspiration and motivation to find a way to write that book.

But in any case, try reading A Tudor Turk and A King’s Armour over lock-down. You will find yourself in another world, full of daring adventure.

Sue Martin

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