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Jo Cummins, who runs the brilliant Library Girl and Book Boy blog and podcast, shares a fab list of books that will not only comfort & inspire readers during lockdown but "make them realise their own power and awesomeness".
I’ve been asked by the lovely folks at Lantana Publishing to put together a list of books to inspire, comfort and make readers laugh. It was a difficult task, but I’ve tried to select titles which will help children start to make sense of what is happening around us at the moment and help them realise their own power and awesomeness.
My first three choices are all picture books which promote a sense of togetherness which can be difficult to imagine when practicing social distancing or self-isolating, the final three are about celebrating just how wonderful you are:
‘We are Together,’ by Britta Teckentrup (Caterpillar Books)
Beautifully illustrated in Britta's trademark style, the peep-through pages and lyrical text explore ways in which we can be special on our own, but so much more powerful when we unite as a team. There is one page in particular which seems to particularly resonate at a time when children may be confused about the new restrictions and lack of school routine in their lives: "When life is confusing, and our way seems unclear, The horizon is distant but our friends will stay near."
‘Under the Same Sky,’ by Robert Vescio and Nicky Johnston (New Frontier Publishing)
This heart-warming story is about two friends who live on opposite sides of the world but crave each other's friendship. A gorgeous book which sees one of the characters making and posting an unexpected gift to his friend across the ocena, and the reader witnessing the joy on her face as she unwraps it. My children and I have been having to find new ways to communicate with people we would usually see on a regular basis (as have millions of other people across the country) and we have found ourselves making and sending more handmade gifts and cards through the post as well as utilising modern technology to play a live game of wizards’ chess!
‘Number 7 Evergreen Street,’ by Julia Patton (Templar Books)
Pea has lived at the top of her tower block her whole life. Everyone who lives there knows everyone else and they’ve all developed ingenious ways of communicating with each other. When a shiny new development is built over the road, Pea and her neighbours fear that the mayor may have plans to demolish their dull grey building. Together, they devise a plan which may just save their beloved home and brighten up their days. To me, this story echoed the way that neighbourhoods across the country have come together and worked collectively to defeat a common threat. In this case, the coronavirus.
‘I am Brown’ by Ashok Banker, illustrated by Sandhya Prabhat (Lantana Publishing)
This book is a glorious celebration of all that makes us different and all that makes us the same. It explores the traditional food, clothing, places of worship and the vast wealth of languages spoken on this planet. All the characters are shown role-playing aspirational future jobs, playing imaginatively and making art. Most importantly, all the characters (and readers) are told, regardless of their skin colour, that they are special and they are important. Guaranteed to make any reader feel good about themselves.
‘Dogs Don’t Do Ballet!’ by Anna Kemp, illustrated by Sara Ogilvie (Simon and Schuster)
If this book doesn’t leave you with a warm glow inside, then nothing will! Biff isn’t your average puppy; he doesn’t like weeing on lampposts, scratching fleas or drinking out of toilets. He has a secret wish. Biff’s heart’s desire is nothing more or less than to be a prima ballerina. Every week, he watches his little girl heading off to ballet lessons but he knows that he could never join in one of the classes, let alone dance on a stage. Because dogs don’t do ballet – do they?! Uplifting, inspirational and life-affirming. Guaranteed to get you chasing your dreams and breaking the mould!
‘You are Awesome,’ by Matthew Syed, illustrated by Toby Triumph (Wren & Rook)
Written by a two-time Olympian and best-selling writer, this book is aimed at older readers (10 +) and encourages them to challenge the beliefs which are holding them back. It’s all about developing the right mindset to believe that you are awesome and you can do anything you set your mind to. It’s packed with challenges and activities to build confidence and full of helpful strategies used by people at the top of their fields. Identifying your barriers, the importance of practise, and coping with pressure are all very valuable life lessons for children to learn – the sooner the better.
Well, I hope you enjoy my suggestions; it was very difficult to narrow it down to just a few, but these are some of my favourites – new and old. Books can provide comfort and open up conversations which may otherwise be hard to have. They can also lift the spirits and reinvigorate you.
Whatever you need your book to do, surely there can be no better time than now, during such a period of uncertainty and change, to snuggle up with a loved one and share a story.
Jo Cummins is an experienced primary school teacher and English leader with a passion for children’s books. As well as blogging about new children’s books and recording a podcast with author and illustrator interviews, she has been involved in long-listing and judging national books awards. Jo is currently collaborating with Just Imagine on the Ha Ha Boing Book Club programme, aimed at helping readers find their love of reading. Follow her blog and podcast Library Girl and Book Boy for some fab book recommendations and author and illustrator interviews!