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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.


Misconceptions


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


HHHHH


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


story


Windrush generation from the Leonard’s


readers


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


HHHH


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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