Top Texts for February 2022

Miranda has chosen some powerful texts for early and secondary years.

The Crossing

by Manjeet Mann

Two powerfully drawn characters are brought together by a twist of fate. Natalie’s family has fallen apart after her mum died, and  Eritrean Sammy is leaving his behind as he attempts a perilous journey to escape persecution and find a new life in Europe. We hear their separate inner voices, as Natalie tries to swim the channel in support of refugees and Sammy makes his life-threatening journey.

Manjeet Mann’s incredibly powerful verse novel structure gives us a gut-wrenching way of experiencing the refugee crisis. Extraordinarily sad, but ultimately hopeful, this was a must for the Read for Empathy judges.

What Happened to YOU?

by James Catchpole & Karen George

Joe wants to play sharks and crocodiles, but all the other children want to do is talk about why he only has one leg. Hilarious questions ensue – “was it a burglar?”, “did it fall off…in the toilet…?”. Eventually the power of play wins out, and they all end up playing sharks and pirates together. The missing leg seems irrelevant.

A superb picture book featured in the 2002 Read For Empathy collection. It can help open up an honest exploration of the experience of physical disability, and what it might feel like to be seen as different.

Punching the Air

by Ibi Zoboi & Yusef Salaam 

If you want to better understand the injustices suffered by the black community, this is a powerful starting point. 16 year-old Amal is convicted of a crime he didn’t commit and sent to prison. We experience his disbelief, rage and agonising despair, and hold our breath as he finds a way forward through the flourishing of his art and poetry .

Based on the real-life experiences of co-author Yusef Salaam, this visceral verse novel opens eyes and hearts. Magnificent writing.


About this month's reviewer

Miranda McKearney OBE is the founder of EmpathyLab and previously founded The Reading Agency.

EmpathyLab aims to raise an empathy-educated generation, using the power of stories to build young people’s empathy skills. It founded Empathy Day in 2017, and every January launches a Read for Empathy book collection for 4-16 year olds. To find out more, visit And follow @EmpathyLab.UK .