Top Texts for May

This month’s Top Texts have been chosen by Emily Drabble, head of children’s book promotion and prizes at the reading for pleasure charity BookTrust. Some thought provoking choices here, including Ghost!.

Kind by Axel Scheffler and Alison Green

A delicious book by Alison Green with illustrations and a foreword by Axel Scheffler plus pictures by 38 international illustrators to celebrate kindness and humankind. It explores all the different ways we can be kind, by giving someone a smile, a hug, holding someone’s hand, making sure someone isn’t left out of a game or telling someone a story.

This book is quite simple a treasure trove of wisdom and beauty. The subject feels much needed as a point of discussion today. This is a book that certainly needs to grace every classroom and ideally every home too. Sometimes we need to remind ourselves that even small acts of kindness make an impact. Because it has so many illustrations by different artists, the book is also a compendium of children’s book illustration. It’s a lovely place to start and then go off to explore other books by those artists, including Quentin Blake, Chris Haughton and Lydia Monks as well as international illustrators that will probably be less familiar including Marianna Coppo and Rotraut Susanne Berner. A beautiful book.

Bear Moves by Ben Bailey Smith and Sav Akyuz

The hilariously funny and engaging sequel to I Am Bear by the dream duo Ben Bailey Smith (AKA comedian and rapper Doc Brown) and illustrator Sav Akyüz. This is a book that absolutely begs to be read out loud, OUT LOUD!

Bear knows how to dance and when the music starts, he just can’t help getting down and showing all his moves, from Furry Breaking to the Running Bear to the Robot to Belly Dance. The rhythmic text is so easy to read aloud and share with little ones. It’s the kind of book that makes an inexperienced adult reader feel more confident about reading aloud. And after a couple of readings, children will start to learn the words and sing along. This is a book that inspires people to enjoy reading, get dancing and loving books. Sav Akyuz’s illustrations are so inviting, energetic and colourful. This book is a joy from start to finish!

Ghost, by Jason Reynolds

Ghost (real name Castle Cranshaw) is a boy with anger management issues, which is fairly unsurprising after the trauma of his dad trying to shoot him and his mother (and currently serving 10 years in prison). Even though he has been running his whole life, Ghost has never thought of athletics as a sporting option, basketball is his thing. But when Ghost challenges a sprinter to a race and wins, in front of Coach Brody, and when Coach persuades Ghost’s mum to let him join the elite running team, his life starts to change. There are plenty of challenges and moral dilemmas on the way and the book ends on such a cliffhanger that you’ll be longing for book two: Pattina.

This is a stunningly beautifully written story about a boy whose character is so authentic that you wouldn’t be surprised if he walked straight out of the pages living and breathing. The dialogue is just great and its page turning qualities make it hard for a reader not to read in one sitting, and easy for children who feel they aren’t readers to love. This is really the perfect middle grade novel, roll on the next ones in the series.

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About this month's reviewer

Emily Drabble is head of children’s book promotion and prizes at the reading for pleasure charity BookTrust; the team that run the Children’s Laureate, the BookTrust Lifetime Achievement Award and the Blue Peter Book Award, as well as publishing the BookTrust’s Great Books Guide and children’s book reviews on the BookTrust website. Before BookTrust Emily was a Guardian journalist. She joined the Guardian in 1994 where she worked on the Education supplement, developed a children’s news services, was a commissioning editor of the Guardian Teacher Network and most recently edited the Guardian Children’s Books website from 2014 to 2016.

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