Librarian’s Choice: My favourite books for under 5s

This blog comes from Debbie, a Community Librarian in the east of Leeds.

As anyone with small children will know, the Summer Holidays bring many challenges, including how to keep little ones entertained for the entire 6 weeks…that’s a massive 1008 hours. With that in mind, I thought I would compose a list of my all-time favourite books for under 5s. As a Librarian and a mother, I have read countless children’s books over the years. Here are the 5 books that have stood out to me and I have returned to time and time again.

Each peach pear plum by Janet and Allan Ahlberg

Deb Each peachThis is my favourite children’s book of all time. Written and illustrated by the magical duo Janet and Allan Ahlberg. This booked is packed with wonderful illustrations of fairy tale characters such as Tom Thumb, Goldilocks and the Three Bears, Mother Hubbard and many more. There is a little ‘I spy’ rhyme on each page and children can look for the hidden characters. The rhymes are repetitive so children can quickly anticipate what will come next and can easily learn to recite the book themselves. The book is told in easy rhyme, ‘Each,Peach, Pear Plum I spy Tom Thumb, Tom Thumb in the cupboard, I spy Mother Hubbard.

Each, Peach, Pear, Plumb takes us through a journey to find the hidden characters, but the real joy comes from discovering the other secrets hidden on each page. Children can continue the story themselves, using the many characters for inspiration. I have spent many evenings cuddled up with my children with this book and this is a book I will never tire of. This is a charming, sweet book that you will enjoy reading with your child over and over again.

The Gruffalo by Julia Donaldson and Alex Scheffler

Deb The GruffaloThe Gruffalo is my next favourite book. Written by Julia Donaldson and illustrated by Alex Scheffler, the Gruffalo is a classic book that will be loved by children and grown-ups for generations to come.

This book captures the imaginations of young minds. We are introduced to the characters- the Mouse, the Gruffalo, the Owl, the Fox, the Snake with the ‘innocent’ mouse as the main character. Throughout the book the Mouse shows his bravery and underlying cunningness to save himself from the various predators lurking ‘In the deep dark wood’. He is able to trick the various forest creatures into believing that he is in fact ‘the scariest creature in all the wood.’ The short rhymes and their repetitive structure make The Gruffalo a fun book to read aloud and children will quickly learn the words and be able to join in.

How the Library (not the Prince) saved Rapunzel by Wendy Meddour and Rebecca Ashdown

Deb How theThis is a lovely book with an inspiring message for younger readers. There are also many positive subtle messages that perhaps only the grown-ups will understand but using this a starting point to chat to children and develop the story gives this book many layers. The overall feeling for all readers in one of positivity.

It is so refreshing to see the damsel in distress (Rapunzel) ‘rescued’ by the library-and not the prince on horseback as we normally see. Lots of would be rescuers show their hand in this book, but alas only the library can save the day! The illustrations are bright, cheerful and engaging for readers and offer a fun and refreshing
background for the tale. The book is told in rhymes and a cast of multi-cultural characters that help set this book aside from most other ‘fairytales’. As a mother (and a Librarian), I am very impressed by the messages in this book as these echo the lessons I try to pass to my children,

“So don’t just wait for your prince to show.
He might turn up, but you never know.
Pop down to your library and borrow a book
There’s so much to find if only you look.”

Eat your peas: A Daisy book by Kes Gray and illustrated by Nick Sharratt

Deb Eat your peasMy daughter loved, loved, loved this book. This is the book I had to read over and over again.

Eat Your Peas is a funny tale of the battle of wills between Daisy (who really does not like peas) and her mum. Daisy’s mum tries everything to get her to eat her peas
resorting to bribing her with treats such as staying up later and skipping bath time. However as Daisy continues to refuse her peas, Mum’s promises start to become more and more elaborate, including offers of chocolate factories, elephants and bikes. But still Daisy refuses to eat her peas. Finally Daisy makes a suggestion. ‘I’ll eat my peas if you eat your Brussel Sprouts’. Simple. Except….Daisy’s mum replies ‘but I don’t like Brussel Sprouts.

This common problem of disliking certain food makes the story easy to relate to for
children. The repetition in the book is a fun way for the children to be involved often
calling out ‘but I don’t like peas’. The pictures a clear and vibrant and would be suitable for children of all ages.

We’re going on a Bear Hunt by Michael Rosen and illustrations by Helen Oxenby

Deb Bear HuntThis classic book is a favourite in many homes, nurseries, schools and libraries. There is a perfect mix of rhyme and repetition which engages children from the off and the anticipation of what will happen next is enough to keep children interested in the story from start to finish.

The story sees the determined family of 4 set off on their own bear hunt and tells how they overcome several obstacles in their way, until at last they manage to track down the bear. The story is simple and fun and easy for children to join in with. The descriptions of the obstacles in their way ‘swishy-swashy grass’ and ‘thick oozy mud’ lends itself to interactive and fun storytime session, with children being able to act out the story as they go along. Reading is meant to be fun and this book certainly is that.

‘Must Reads’ for A-Level Students

This blog comes from Lauren, a student who was with us recently for work experience.

A-Levels are hard. On top of the abundance of essays, exams and coursework deadlines, there is also the expectation that one is well read. This can sometimes feel like a heavy weight to hold on your shoulders. However, reading for pleasure is easy if reading is made pleasurable. This short list of modern classics is aimed to enrich you with intellectual ideas that will hopefully compliment your studies and entertain all those looking for a good read throughout the summer.

A Thousand Splendid Suns by Khaled Hosseini

Lauren A ThousandCalling all fans of The Kite Runner! Khaled Hosseini’s second novel provides the perfect counterpart to his debut, again focusing in on the social and ethnic rivalries within a modern war-torn country. The story follows two Afghan women, Laila and Mariam, whose lives are thrust together by conflict, loss and fate. The two soon form an unbreakable bond likening to that of sisters, enduring the hardship of Taliban rule together as a team. There is something undeniable about Hosseini’s narrative style throughout his work which makes even the most unbearable of events readable and I could honestly not put this book down. Although utterly heart-breaking, the political relevance of this novel helps further an understanding into the context surrounding fiction set in contemporary Afghanistan, providing invaluable insight into the complexities of modern Afghan society; this is especially useful to those studying The Kite Runner at A-Level. A Thousand Splendid Suns is a novel perhaps even more profound than The Kite Runner, one that will stay with you forever and a definite must read for all.

The Perks Of Being A Wallflower by Stephen Chbosky

Lauren PerksThis brilliant book is a coming of age tale based around the challenges of the teenage years. Written as an epistolary entirely in the format of letters, the novella is set in early 1990s America and explores the themes of mental health, first love and self-discovery through the perspective of protagonist, Charlie, a socially awkward introvert. When faced with the world of first dates, mix tapes, school dances and adulthood, Charlie initially hates high school, but the story follows him on his journey of self-acceptance as he embraces his status as a ‘wallflower’ whilst himself through the help of fun-loving best friends Patrick and Sam. The film adaptation is equally as wonderful; the soundtrack features many of my all-time favourite songs, including music from The Smiths and David Bowie. This novel is beautifully written and deceivingly deep. I think it is important that young people take on board the messages within it and are encouraged to be brave, daring and sometimes a little wild.
“There comes a time when you have to see what life looks like from the dancefloor”

1984 by George Orwell

1984Written in 1949, Orwell creates a nightmarish dystopian future whereby everyone and everything is watched over by ‘Big Brother’ and controlled by its tyranny (clearly channel 4 were particularly inspired by this). This novel has had a profound effect and 1984 has now become shorthand for totalitarianism. It encapsulates the power of mass media and its ability to manipulate public opinion, the truth and even history. Great for writing about in exams and an even better conversation starter, this political thriller is truly unforgettable. Arguably one of the most thought provoking texts in modern literature, 1984 is an undeniable ‘must read’.

Matilda by Roald Dahl

Lauren MatildaRoald Dahl is one of the unconditional loves in my life. His body of work is legendary and I could go on all day about how he inspired me throughout childhood etc etc… and I really don’t think we should forget this as ‘adult learners’. It’s important to take some time away from academic reading and indulge in some of Dahl’s delightfulness from time to time. Regress back to childhood with this wonderful piece of fiction about a six year old girl that we all secretly wish we could be. I certainly wish I was storming through double multiplication problems and blitz-reading Dickens! And I’m seventeen! The horrid Ms Trunchbull is contrasted wonderfully with the lovely Miss Honey and it is impossible not to become overly emotionally invested in Matilda’s crazy life. I encourage everyone to pour some excitement back into their lives with this magical classic.

CILIP Kate Greenaway Medal shadowing

This blog is from Kat, an Assistant Community Librarian based in the East of the city.

Chatterbooks is a readers group for children aged 7-11, who meet on the first Thursday of the month at Chapel Allerton Library 3:30-4:30pm. The next session will be Thursday 4th July, and we will be discussing The Secret Garden by Frances Hodgson Burnett and Return to the Secret Garden by Holly Webb – new members are always welcome!

This week we looked at some of the books shortlisted for the CILIP Kate Greenaway Medal – a prize which recognises an outstanding book in terms of illustration for children and young people. Here are the group’s thoughts on illustrations and some of their favourites from this year’s shortlist;

  • Illustrations can help younger readers understand the story.
  • Black and white illustrations give you some idea but still lets you use your imagination.
  • Sometimes, illustrations can distract you from the story, but can also support the story.

Kat A great big cuddleA Great Big Cuddle illustrated by Chris Riddell

  • AMAZING!
  • Chris Riddle’s books are always very detailed and makes us want to read another.
  • We always love Chris’s style of illustration, which is unique and peculiar.
  • One of our favourite pages was ‘Lost’ – the illustration mirrored the sadness of the poem exactly.

Kat Wild AnimalsWild Animals of the North by Dieter Braun

  • The style is unusual – simplistic but detailed and abstract.
  • This book is less cartoony and very beautiful – it reminds us more of pictures you would see in a gallery exhibition rather than a book.
  • Looks printed, or shapes stuck together at first, but on looking closer could possibly be done on a computer.

Kat The MarvelsThe Marvels by Brian Selznick

  • There is not as much text as you would expect in this book, the first half is completely illustrated – we wouldn’t imagine a book like this to have so many illutrations.
  • The illustrations give an impression of the story and are then followed by the text which gives more meaning to it.
  • Very traditional and realistic, the shading is very impressive!
  • The cover image makes some of us want to read the book – although it seems a bit dark and scary to others.

Kat TidyTidy by Emily Gravett

  • The illustrator has used a wide range of colours which gives the landscapes depth.
  • The trees are so beautiful – they make you think you are there.

Kat There is a tribeThere is a Tribe of Kids by Lane Smith

  • Although not realistic, the illustrations are very detailed.
  • Can tell that a variety of media has been used.
  • Not sure that they go with the story – there are hardly any words so without the illustrations there wouldn’t be much of a book.

Kat Harry potterHarry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone illustrated by Jim Kay

  • Would prefer to read this rather than a normal Harry Potter book
  • The illustrations tell the story very well, and they fit in perfectly with the words – can tell it has been planned very well.
  • Favourite pages shows Diagon Alley – very intricately detailed; looks like the films have come to life.
  • Can imagine this actually being real.

Our joint favourite books of the shortlist were A Great Big Cuddle, Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone and Wild Animals of the North. You can see the full shortlist and details of authors and illustrators here and the winner will be announced on 19th June.

Celebrating Helen Dunmore

We are so sad to hear that poet, novelist and children’s author Helen Dunmore, died of cancer yesterday (5th June), aged 64.

Helen’s fiction in particular was a firm favourite with our readers which her publisher, Penguin Random House characterised as “rich and intricate, yet narrated with a deceptive simplicity that made all her writing accessible and heartfelt”. Dunmore’s writing stood out for the “fluidity and lyricism of her prose, and how well constructed all her narratives were”.

Penguin Random House, which published Dunmore for over two decades, said it was “devastated by the loss of one of our best-loved authors”. A spokesperson said she had been “an inspirational and generous author, championing emerging voices and other established authors” as well as “a very dear friend” to many at the company and the wider literary community.

Here are a few of our favourite books from our catalogue.

Dunmore The LieThe Lie

Cornwall, 1920, early spring. A young man stands on a headland, looking out to sea. He is back from the war, homeless and without family. Behind him lie the mud, barbed-wire entanglements and terror of the trenches. Behind him is also the most intense relationship of his life. Daniel has survived, but the horror and passion of the past seem more real than the quiet fields around him. He is about to step into the unknown. But will he ever be able to escape the terrible, unforeseen consequences of a lie?

Dunmore Birdcage WalkBirdcage Walk

It is 1792 and Europe is seized by political turmoil and violence. Lizzy Fawkes has grown up in Radical circles where each step of the French Revolution is followed with eager idealism. But she has recently married John Diner Tredevant, a property developer who is heavily invested in Bristol’s housing boom, and he has everything to lose from social upheaval and the prospect of war. Soon his plans for a magnificent terrace built above the 200ft drop of the Gorge come under threat.

Dunmore The GreatcoatThe Greatcoat

In the winter of 1952, newly wed Isabel Carey arrives in a Yorkshire town with her husband Philip. As a GP he spends much of his time working, while Isabel tries hard to adjust to the realities of married life. One cold night, Isabel finds an old RAF greatcoat in the back of a cupboard. She puts it on her bed for warmth – and is startled by a knock at her window. Outside is a young man. A pilot. And he wants to come in.

Dunmore ExposureExposure

London, November, 1960: the Cold War is at its height. Spy fever fills the newspapers, and the political establishment knows how and where to bury its secrets. When a highly sensitive file goes missing, Simon Callington is accused of passing information to the Soviets, and arrested. His wife, Lily, suspects that his imprisonment is part of a cover-up, and that more powerful men than Simon will do anything to prevent their own downfall. She knows that she too is in danger, and must fight to protect her children. But what she does not realise is that Simon has hidden vital truths about his past, and may be found guilty of another crime that carries with it an even greater penalty.

Dunmore The BetrayalThe Betrayal

Leningrad in 1952: a city recovering from war, where Andrei, a young hospital doctor and Anna, a nursery school teacher, are forging a life together. Summers at the dacha, preparations for the hospital ball, work and the care of sixteen year old Kolya fill their minds. They try hard to avoid coming to the attention of the authorities, but even so their private happiness is precarious. Stalin is still in power, and the Ministry for State Security has new targets in its sights. When Andrei has to treat the seriously ill child of a senior secret police officer, Volkov, he finds himself and his family caught in an impossible game of life and death – for in a land ruled by whispers and watchfulness, betrayal can come from those closest to you.

Dunmore IngoIngo

In this magical adventure, storyteller Helen Dunmore writes the story of Sapphire and her brother Conor, and their discovery of Ingo, a powerful and exciting world under the sea.

Dunmore StormsweptStormswept

Morveren lives with her parents and twin sister Jenna on an island off the coast of Cornwall – an island that in the long distant past was devastated by a tidal wave. Only some of those taken by the sea may not have been lost at all. Morveren’s life changes when she finds a beautiful teenage boy in a rock pool after a storm.

 

 

 

Librarian’s Choice: Cat Books

This blog comes from Julia, a community librarian based in the south of the city.

Cats. Beautiful, noble, fascinating, independent and enigmatic. Domesticated around 4000 years ago, they now rank highly amongst our most popular pets. Cats are everywhere, having taken social media and YouTube by storm and the word on the street is that Leeds is to get its own Cat Café later this year! It seems appropriate and timely, then, to have a look at just a few of the fabulous felines who feature as favourites in our selection of fiction (and non-fiction) for all ages. Of course, I’m mindful that in writing this blog, I may be perpetuating the ‘cat lady’ Librarian stereotype but, as those who know me will testify, I AM a ‘cat lady’ Librarian, so here goes!

The association of cats and libraries is not a modern phenomenon: apparently, cats were used in the libraries of Egyptian temples and in medieval monasteries to safeguard precious manuscripts, by keeping rodents at bay! One of the most famous library cats of more recent times was Dewey, who lived at the Spencer Public Library, Iowa, USA, having been abandoned there as a kitten, so the first book on my list is:

Julia DeweyDewey’s nine lives: the legacy of the small-town library cat who inspired millions by Vicki Myron

In addition to the story of Dewey himself, Librarian, Vicki Myron, shares a selection of other true-life tales of incredible cats and the people whose lives they enriched. These heart-warming and uplifting stories capture the amazing ability of animals to touch and enrich human lives.

julia street catA street cat named Bob by James Bowen

Another famous feline (now a movie star, no less!) to be found lurking in the non-fiction is Street Cat Bob. Homeless and in dire streets, Bob arrives on the doorstep of James, a busker and former drug-addict who has recently moved from the streets to supported housing, in London. And so begins an incredible friendship, as James gives Bob a home; but that small act of kindness has the most amazing repercussions for both their lives! The incredible story of the amazing relationship enjoyed by the pair has generated a series of inspiring books beginning with this one.

julia guest catThe Guest Cat by Takashi Hiraide

Over on the fiction shelves, The Guest Cat is a beautiful little book (140 pages) recommended to me by a cat-loving friend. The cover alone is a delight to behold, the captivating cat’s eyes conveying something of the enigmatic, other-worldliness of the tale within. The writer is a poet, which is most evident in the gentle, graceful prose. As with the true-stories, this book also explores the unique and incredible impact that interaction with a cat can have on human lives. Cats are ‘free spirits’ and this one is no exception, subtly inviting herself into the home of a couple living in a quiet part of Tokyo, despite having a home of her own! As the visits become more frequent, the couple find themselves increasingly affected by their little guest.

Julia molly cat cafeMolly and the cat café by Melissa Daley

If you’re interested in the growing popularity of cat cafés in the UK, you might enjoy this lovely story told from the viewpoint of two-year-old tabby, Molly, who finds herself rehomed in a house with three cat-hating dogs, after her first owner becomes ill. Desperately unhappy, Molly runs away and so begins her journey through the streets as she searches for her forever home. A delightful, easy read, there are tears and laughter along the way and beautifully imaginative descriptions of feline ways!

julia cat cafeThe home-made cat café by Katrina Charman

Continuing the cat café theme, this book is the first in series of stories written especially for children (9 years+). Isla is desperate for a cat, but although her mum works as a nurse for a local vet, Isla is not allowed a pet of her own, so she must make do with visiting the animals at the vetinary surgery. She is particularly fond of a homeless cat, she sees there, so when Isla’s lonely grandmother comes to stay with the family for the summer, Isla has an idea …and then the idea just snowballs! Immediately engaging with fun characters and cute illustrations, this book will purr-fectly appeal to children who love animals.

julia paractical catsOld Possum’s book of practical cats by T.S. Eliot

This collection of delightful cat poems, takes me back to my own school days when my recitation of ‘Macavity the Mystery Cat’ earned me a prize in the High School Reading Aloud competition! Eliot originally wrote the poems in the 1930s to amuse his godchildren and friends; then in the 1980s they were adapted by Andrew Lloyd Webber for his West End musical, Cats! These colourful characters created and so exquisitely described by T S Eliot are utterly captivating. Mungojerrie, Rumpleteazer, Old Deuteronomy, Mr. Mistoffelees… each cat has his/her own fascinating story which will delight readers of all ages. These all-time literary favourites are available from Leeds Libraries in a variety of publications.

julia adolphus tipsThe amazing story of Adolphus Tips by Michael Morpurgo

One of Britain’s best loved story-tellers, Michael Morpurgo is well known for a whole host of children’s books, many of which feature animals among the central characters. The main part of this story is set during the Second World War, the impact of which, on a family and community, is explored through the diaries of schoolgirl, Lily Tregenza. Lily has a cat called Tips whom she loves ‘more than anyone or anything’ but just as the family and their neighbours face evacuation from their homes, Tips goes missing. A tear-jerking, heart-warming tale of love and friendship, with a brilliant surprise ending, The Amazing Story of Adolphus Tips is recommended for children aged 9 years and above.

julia mogMog the Forgetful Cat by Judith Kerr

Mog, the loveable family pet, around whom Judith Kerr created a whole series of books, was a firm favourite in our household when our children were young. And these charming, timeless stories with gentle humour and beautiful illustrations are just as enjoyable today. Mog’s comical antics are based on Judith’s observations of her own cats and the series of engaging stories takes us on a journey through Mog’s life with her loving family (tissues at the ready for the final instalment!) Whether you’re meeting Mog for the first time or sharing your own childhood favourite with the next generation of youngsters, this tale of the forgetful tabby who saves the day, will not disappoint.

julia i love catsI love cats by Emma Dodd

This picture book is perfect for pre-schoolers who will delight in the lyrical rhythm and abundance of adjectives as a little girl searches for her ideal pet cat. How can she possibly choose from the many and varied kitties of every shape, size and personality? Colourful pictures, giggles aplenty and a heart-warming ending make this story just right for sharing at bedtime or anytime!

julia cat in the hatThe Cat in the Hat by Dr Seuss

And finally, no blog about literary cats would be complete without the instantly recognisable feline favourite from the pen of Dr Seuss. The Cat in the Hat is now 60 years old, but his unique brand of moggy mayhem and tomfoolery still has youngsters chuckling to this day. The simple rhyming words with colourful illustrations to assist understanding, encourage children to read this classic for themselves – the very purpose for which the book was written! So, hold on to your own hats as you join the mischievous cat and his crazy companions, Thing 1 and Thing 2, on their riotous adventure in the home of Sally and her brother.

Leeds Book Awards

LBALeeds Book Awards started in 2009 and has evolved into a successful city wide initiative, run jointly between Leeds School Library Service and Leeds Public Libraries. The Award is now a fantastic opportunity for pupils aged 9- 11, 11-14 and 14-16 to take part and vote for the best children’s and young people’s books published in the last year.

The Primary 9-11 age group Awards Ceremony was held at Pudsey Civic Hall in May, and once again proved to be a big hit with 500 children from 75 primary schools.

LBA primary 17

The hall full of young readers. 

The Ceremony is the culmination for the children of months of reading and reviewing the 6 shortlisted titles, and then voting for their favourite. It is entirely the children’s choice which book wins the Award.

murder in midwinterThis year’s winner was Fleur Hitchcock with Murder in Midwinter. It was her first award and her book is a thriller, which isn’t a genre most people think of as suitable for children. Obviously, not the case here!

LBA 17 Curtis Jobling

Author Curtis Jobling meeting a fan. 

With many of the authors in attendance the children were then given the fantastic opportunity to meet their favourite author and have their books signed. Organised chaos and bedlam reigns at this point in the ceremony, but it is so amazing to see so many children buzzing with excitement at meeting their favourite authors. A never to be forgotten moment!

One of the authors Jo Cotterill wrote this brilliant blog about her memory of a super day…
https://jocotterill.com/2017/05/17/lovely-leeds-book-awards/

Information about the Awards and the reviews submitted by the school children can be read along with the information about all the shortlisted authors on www.leedsbookawards.co.uk

#whatsyourstory – Meet Kim

kim-woodFull-time mum Kim Wood moved to Leeds seven years ago. With her husband working long hours and a new baby to look after, Kim felt isolated in a new area where she hardly knew anyone. She loved using her local library in Newcastle when she was growing up, so when she moved to Leeds she quickly sought out her local library. It’s proved a real lifeline for her and her three daughters; Sophie, Chloe and Phoebe. The girls are total bookworms and they love nothing more than coming to the library to read and explore new books – and taking home armfuls to read! Kim loves the variety of events happening at her local library and the chance to meet other parents and have some grown-up conversations! From storytimes to tea parties to food festivals, there’s always something fun going on that she can bring the family to. Using her local library has really helped Kim feel part of the community.

You don’t just have to take our word for it, here’s Kim telling you her story in her own words: https://youtu.be/C6uja0arxvw

Now you’ve met another of our Leeds Libraries ambassadors, could you be the next? If one of the many services available at Leeds Libraries has helped you, we want to know. Tweet us or write on our Facebook page using the hashtag #whatsyourstory, or email us at whatsyourstory@leeds.gov.uk, and let us know how we’ve helped you.