BfK Some poems are

8 – 10 Junior/Middle continued topical with

Recent History Lessons for example, highlighting the plight of refugees referred to as ‘people with nowhere.’ On Television Tonight speaks of images of

famine interspersed with

materialism and plenty. This mood is lightened with other poems with touches of humour such as Please Don’t Feed the Animals. A number of the poems have a rural setting, in particular

personification (Frost for example) and a wide range

of structures

which might support children’s own poetry writing. Several poems are playful, savouring language including Dictionary and Collections with Rhyming focused on poetry itself. A self-published collection of poetry

which demonstrates the writer’s skill and experience. SMc

those about wildlife, A Remarkable Ear

which are also included in the writer’s recently published themed collection Fading Presences. Many of these are timeless however some of the poems about

school of life appear

dated at times in their portrayal of classroom contexts. There are poems using a range imagery including similes and

rather HHHHH

Anne Fine, ill. Roxana de Rond, Barrington Stoke, 96pp, 9781781129449, £6.99 pbk

Will is so used to everyone pleading with him to stop humming or singing or making so much noise that when music teacher Mr Brand tells him that he has a remarkable ear and a

New talent The Valley of Lost Secrets HHHH

Lesley Parr, illus David Dean, Bloomsbury, 298pp, 9781512662021, £6.99 pbk

When Jimmy and his little brother Ronnie are evacuated from London to a small Welsh mining village during WW2 they do not find the countryside quite as they expected and are surprised by both the mountains and the slag heaps. The brothers are taken in by Gwen Thomas and her husband d Alun who although initially requesting one boy decide on the spot to take in both. Jimmy is awkward and homesick and struggles to adjust while Ronnie adapts easily and seems to thrive in his temporary home.

Nothing feels right to

Jimmy; his best friend Duff ignores him and to make matters worse Florence Campbell, a classmate with a troubled background has

somehow turned into an

extraordinarily plucky and friendly child who rescues Jimmy from the village bullies. One day Jimmy takes off on his

own and strays into an unknown field where he discovers a skull in an old tree. This intrigues him – why is it there and who does it belong to?

Jimmy enlists the help

of Florence and the two children set out to uncover the mystery. Along the way they find out a lot more besides.


and injustices have plagued the village

for years and now the

evacuee children are being blamed for stealing money from the church

gift for music and that he absolutely must learn to play the violin Will is not convinced. In this short, accessible book Anne Fine deploys her characteristic wit and observation to tell the story of a musical boy who learns to play the violin against many odds, little encouragement from his family, nowhere

to practice, stage

fright and a lack of self-belief. Will does overcome all these obstacles with the help of a wonderful teacher who recognises and develops his ability. This is a positive and heart-warming

tale of success against the odds with important messages about the need for practice, perseverance, and self- belief. It is presented in Barrington Stoke’s dyslexia friendly layout and font and would be particularly accessible to dyslexic, struggling or reluctant readers. It should leave all readers with smiles on their faces as Will realises that his dream of a music school place could become a reality. SR

10 – 14 Middle/Secondary Windrush Child


Benjamin Zephaniah, Scholastic, 208pp, 978 0 702302 72 5, £6.99 pbk

collection box. And then Ronnie goes missing. The

petty small-mindedness

of the village is well-drawn with the underlying message of never judging a book by its cover. The kindness and warmth of the Thomas’ is beautifully handled too and the historical details feel realistic and grounded. Children will enjoy noting the differences of home cooked meals versus tinned food in London and the toys they play with. This is a book about the strength of sibling bonds and having the courage to stand up for honesty and truth. With strong characters, a touch of humour and a mystery to solve this is a wonderfully heartfelt and atmospheric story that will stay long in the mind. A satisfying and welcome addition to the canon of WW2 literature for children. JC

30 Books for Keeps No.246 January 2021

The story focuses on Leonard, who aged 10 travels to England with his mother from Jamaica to join his father and begin a new life. The year is 1958 and Leonard is a Windrush Child. The disappointments of the cramped chilly conditions of Leonard’s new home in Manchester in contrast to the warmth, beauty, freedom and happiness of life on his island home are obvious in the opening chapters. In particular, Leonard misses his grandmother who means so much to him. He encounters racism and violence both directed at his father and to himself. We follow his experiences, and the ups and downs of this change and the stresses it places on his parents’ marriage. We witness Leonard growing up and finding happiness which is cruelly shattered when he unsuccessfully applies for a passport so that he can visit his now elderly mother who has returned to Jamaica. This story is historical fiction

highlighting the lived experiences of the

perspective of a child growing up. Through


Windrush generation from the Leonard’s


learn the motivation for migration to England and gain insight into the life of an immigrant. In particular, the story highlights the appalling treatment of many of the Windrush generation as a result of the hostile environment policy. Many individuals were shocked to find their UK citizenship was not recognised after making the UK their home and contributing so much. Written by acclaimed poet, author and

playwright Benjamin Zephaniah this book is endorsed by Amnesty International, and is one of a series from Scholastic entitled Voices reflecting untold stories. SMc

Reaching for the Moon: the autobiography of NASA Mathematician Katherine Johnson


Katherine Johnson, Atheneum Books, 248pp, 9781534440845, £7.99, pbk.

The film Hidden Figures told of the story of three

African American

mathematicians who had a pivotal role at NASA in putting a man into orbit. This amazing autobiography by Katherine Johnson, who died in 2020 aged 102, tells a much more remarkable story of one of those women. Katherine Johnson’s parents were determined their children would go to college and this was instilled in them from an early age, at a considerable personal cost. Katherine showed a remarkable aptitude for Mathematics and with the help of a particular

professor determined to

become a research mathematician. Despite several setbacks along the way and the considerable difficulties encountered by the fact that she was an African American and a woman, this she achieved, helping to put John Glenn into orbit and also men to the moon.

But this story is so much more than

one woman’s remarkable life, as it portrays very starkly, the appalling iniquities of the segregation of white and ‘coloured’ Americans in the US as she was growing up, and as her own three daughters grew up too. At that time African Americans were called Coloured or Negroes, not terms used nowadays. Alongside Katherine Johnson’s own career path she tells of the difficulties encountered by both men and women at the time, the fact that they had to be more qualified than white people to teach for example. Schools were segregated with lesser facilities for ‘coloured’ children, but

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