News & Reviews

BAME female characters in picture books

Yesterday The Guardian shared their research showing that the top 100 illustrated children’s books last year showed growing marginalisation of female and minority ethnic characters.

We take pride in stocking a diverse range of books and work hard to ensure every child can find themselves represented on our shelves. These beautifully diverse and gender-stereotype-squashing books are out there and this article highlights the importance of independent bookshops and booksellers who can get them into children’s hands.

We’ve put together a gallery of fantastic picture books that fit the criteria, available now or being published in the next few months. Look at them all! Aren’t they stunning. We would be very happy to share these books with you and will be adding them to our online shop over the next week. If you would like to order any now, contact us at the shop and we will work our bookseller magic.

Are there any brilliant books you would like to see added to our gallery? Comment on this post or get in touch via social media and share your favourites.

I Am Not A Number by Lisa Heathfield

The powerful and heart-wrenching new novel from Lisa Heathfield, award-winning author of Seed and Paper Butterflies. Perfect for fans of Sarah Crossan, Louise O’Neill and Lisa Williamson.
The Traditionals have been voted to lead the country, winning people over with talks of healing a broken society, of stronger families and safer streets. They promised a happier future for everyone. They didn’t promise this.
When Ruby is swept up with protesters from the opposition, her life is changed forever. Locked in a prison camp far from home and with her belongings taken from her, she’s now known by the number 276. With horror escalating in the camp, Ruby knows that she has to get her family out – and let the world know what’s happening.
Set in the present day, I Am Not A Number is a powerful and timely book for both young adults and adults alike.

I Am Not A Number is a politically charged book that thrills with tension. A The Handmaid’s Tale for teens, it is inspired by the holocaust and the current rise in fascism. Reading Ruby’s story is all the more terrifying because it poses the question of whether it could happen today.

I Am Not A Number has all of Lisa’s trademark harrowing grittiness and the stunning, award-winning writing that has gained her so many fans. It is not easy to read about the prejudice and the terrifying events that occur in the camp but we don’t pick up Lisa Heathfield’s books for an easy read. We turn to them to have our eyes opened and to see inside the darkness. To see through the fake news and behind the gloss and filters to the bitter truth of prejudice and division. Lisa’s books make us contemplate a future out of our control, and help us to understand the darker realities of our world and what we need to do to change them.

Ultimately, I Am Not A Number is about the power of hope and is a celebration of the inspirational young people who are standing up to prejudice and are campaigning for a better more inclusive future. It shines a light in the darkness of political campaigns filled with hatred, fake news, and segregation, and offers another option. One of hope and a future of compassion and equality.

Just remember to breathe while reading!

You can get your copy here.

The Dragon in the Library – sneak peek and Q&A with Louie Stowell

Kit can’t STAND reading! She’d MUCH rather be outside, playing games and getting muddy, than stuck inside with a book. But when she’s dragged along to the library one day by her two best friends, she makes an incredible discovery – and soon it’s up to Kit and her friends to save the library … and the world.

The Dragon in the Library is a fun, fast-paced adventure packed with mild peril and magic. It’s also a brilliant celebration of the power of reading and the special role that libraries play in the world. With tons of lively illustrations by David Ortu and a wonderfully diverse cast of characters, this book will appeal to newly confident readers. Perfect for Key Stage 1, here’s a sneak peek inside…

Louie Stowell has kindly answered some of our burning questions…

Q:  What are your top tips for budding authors learning to write funny books?

A:  Think about what makes YOU laugh. The more fun you have while you’re writing something, the more other people will find it funny. Also, here are a few simple tips for writing humour:

1) Characters who don’t realise they’re doing something (this is called lack of self-knowledge), especially very pompous characters. Make them do really silly things while insisting that they are serious people who should be taken VERY seriously. This works especially well with adult characters.

2) Read a lot of funny books. The funny will seep into your blood without you noticing. Funny is infectious. You can also, if you’re hardcore, study funny books. When you laugh, think… what did the writer do that made me laugh?

3) Poo. See also farts, burps, wee, vomit.

Q: What is your best tip for kids who are struggling with reading (if a dragon isn’t available)

A: Comics! I have always loved comics, and I think they’re for everyone, from the biggest bookworms to people who’d rather be doing almost anything else except read. It’s a different type of storytelling, and it hooks into a different bit of your brain somehow. Whether you like stories about everyday life or ones about superheroes, there are so many amazing comics out there to discover. Always happy to give recommendations! I’m a big fan of The Phoenix, a weekly comic, but also book series like Amulet – a magical adventure involving giant robots.

Q: What is your fave dragon fact?

A: I love that dragons turn up in mythology all over the world and that, in some countries, such as China, they’re seen as the good guys. I’m Team Dragon, so I appreciate that.

Q: And now.. the killer question… Wow us with something we didn’t already know…

A: Tardigrades – also known as water bears or moss piglets – are microscopic (aka very tiny) creatures that can survive almost anything. They’re so tough they could survive in outer space, or in a volcano. They’re also adorable. Look!

Tardigrades. Adorable? Space monster? Evil clawed dust-burrower? What do you think?

Huge thanks to Louie for sharing her answers and freaking us all out with tardigrades! You can follow Louie on twitter here.

You can grab your copy of The Dragon in the Library from our online shop here!

Judith Kerr National Writing Day Competition

Calling all schools and teachers! Exciting new writing competition for your pupils.

To enter, children are asked to produce a piece of original writing inspired by the life or work of Judith Kerr. For example, pupils might choose to write:

  • their own version of The Tiger Who Came to Tea
  • a review of When Hitler Stole Pink Rabbit
  • a guide on ‘How to Look After Mog’ or a new Mog story
  • a biography of Judith Kerr
  • a report about tigersAll types and genres of writing are valid, as long as they are linked in some way to Judith Kerr and her books. Please encourage children to be as creative as possible!

Closing date: 4th July 2019

Entry forms and instructions, together with the competition Terms and Conditions, are available at

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www.janebransonlearning.co.uk

You can download the flyer with full details here:

JBL Kerr National Writing Day Comp Flyer

Don’t forget you can also win £5000 for your school library with National Book Tokens!

Puberty Books – a parent’s guide

The concept of discussing the changes and worries of puberty with our children can be overwhelming. What better to support you and your children through this emotional time than a tried-and-tested book?

We recommend Usborne’s What’s Happening To Me? series for reliable, kid-friendly (and parent-friendly) advice and information. You can get 10% off these fab books by using code puberty10 during checkout.

These books are contemporary and immensely accessible. Filled with all the information young people will need to know and no-nonsense answers to all their burning questions, this series provides an excellent springboard for discussion. It doesn’t talk down to children or try to make light of the changes they will be going through. Instead it provides clear facts and information, talks about how they may be feeling and gives supportive advice about staying healthy and positive.

Don’t be put off by the gendered covers. These are a far more inclusive than the pink and blue suggests.

You can get your copy in our online shop.

About the books:

A sensitive, detailed and informative guide to puberty, this book will prove invaluable for both children and their parents alike, tackling key subjects from the physical changes that occur at this time to emotional upheaval this can cause.

Bright, original colour illustrations and diagrams reveal everything young people need to know about the changes they will experience as they approach puberty.

The stunning artwork is accompanied by witty, yet clear and informative factual text that helps to demystify this often confusing and tricky subject.

Approved by a team of top-notch consultants, this remarkable and reassuring book is entertaining, approachable and authoritative.

The Secret Dragon by Ed Clarke

Mari Jones is desperate to be a real scientist, even though she’s only eleven.
So when she discovers a tiny dragon while fossil hunting on the beach, she’s sure she can find a good scientific explanation – as long as she can keep it hidden long enough to study it. Unfortunately for Mari, this is one secret that doesn’t want to be kept. And as she starts to form a deeper bond with the mischievous dragon, she might have to admit that, when it comes to friendship, science might not have all the answers… 

The first in a new series, this is a heartwarming tale of family, friendship and following your dreams.

Mari is a fiercely determined and independent young scientist and we loved all the brilliant references to Mary Anning and women in science. There’s also some lovely swapping of gender stereotypes here. A brilliant book for the little feminists in your life.

And who could resist a tiny dragon that can curl its tiny tail round your finger but also burn your school down with one burp?! A perfect book for all budding scientists, adventurers and animal lovers.

We love the cover illustration by Ben Mantle and really do want our very own Gweeb to live in our shop.

Available in our shop now, you can get your copy online here.

The Good Thieves by Katherine Rundell

Fresh off the boat from England, Vita Marlowe has a job to do. Her beloved grandfather Jack has been cheated out of his home and possessions by a notorious conman with Mafia connections.

Seeing Jack’s spirit is broken, Vita is desperate to make him happy again, so she devises a plan to outwit his enemies and recover his home.

She finds a young pickpocket, working the streets of the city. And, nearby, two boys with highly unusual skills and secrets of their own are about to be pulled into her lawless, death-defying plan.

Katherine Rundell’s fifth novel is a heist as never seen before – the story of a group of children who will do anything to right a wrong.
 

Katherine Rundell writes sentences that you wish you could hold in your heart. Her superpower in The Good Thieves is her ability to write characters who burn with bravery and a fierce sense of injustice.

This is a story full of heart as well as adventure. The extraordinary world of tumbledown castles, terrifying gangsters and forbidden heists becomes the backdrop for acts of daring, kindness and respect.

We loved this story of loyalty, friendship and overcoming the odds. Great for 10+

You can order your copy here.

Lampie and the Children of the Sea – Annet Schaap

Every evening Lampie the lighthouse keeper’s daughter must light a lantern to warn ships away from the rocks. But one stormy night disaster strikes. The lantern goes out, a ship is wrecked and an adventure begins. In disgrace, Lampie is sent to work as a maid at the Admiral’s Black House, where rumour has it that a monster lurks in the tower.
But what she finds there is stranger and more beautiful than any monster. Soon Lampie is drawn into a fairytale adventure in a world of mermaids and pirates, where she must fight with all her might for friendship, freedom and the right to be different.

We always get excited by a new book from Pushkin Children’s Books. They consistently deliver something different that makes you look at the world through fresh eyes. Lampie and the Children of the Sea is a joy to read; quirky and filled with wonder.

There is something of The Secret Garden here, in the monster in the tower, the slowly building friendships, and in the fear and distrust that dissolve into something magical.

Lampie is fierce and determined and filled with questions and doubts. The richly diverse cast of characters come together beautifully in a Greatest Showman, This is Me moment.

It’s a beautiful book about standing up against injustice, fighting for what you deserve rather than settling for what life has handed you. Above all it is about being fiercely, proudly, determinedly you. 

A masterclass in writing, perfect for any budding young authors and adventure-lovers. 12+

Lampie and the Children of the Sea by Annet Schaap and translated by Laura Watkinson. Out 30th May, you can order your copy from our shop today.