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Top Texts for July

This month’s Top Texts are chosen by Martin Galway, an experienced Primary teacher and English lead who currently works for Herts for Learning.

A House that Once Was

Setting aside safeguarding concerns, if you discovered a rickety, abandoned house in the woods, wouldn’t you want to take a closer look? Would you find it hard to resist climbing through “a window that now has no window at all. A window that says climb inside”? In this picture book written by Julie Fogliano, two children give in to their curiosity and explore this “house that once was, but now isn’t, a home.” The lyrical text has fun with word order and asks to be read aloud. Illustrator Lane Smith effectively contrasts the ethereal exploration of the children (they are barely there – almost ghost-like) with the images of the former occupants, conjured up by the children as they gather clues. It’s a testament to the power of the childish imagination that these daydreams leap out in sharp relief and vivid colour.

The Errand

The Errand is an exciting start to a graphic novel trilogy that will entrance your upper Key Stage 2 students, and that deserves a wider audience. Imagine Neil Gaiman’s ‘Instructions’ once the sun has gone down and all the candles have been snuffed out. Here our unnamed errand boy pushes on through a forest thick with threat and bound by magic. Why is he travelling in service of a suspected witch? What path led him to his current predicament? We only know that he was once desperate, and desperate times call for desperate measures. Leo LaFleur recounts the journey in second person imperatives, urging you on and pointing out the dangers that lurk in Adam Oehler’s beautifully rendered fantasy landscapes.

Piecing Me Together

Piecing Me Together wears its art on its audiobook sleeve. It’s a book powered by the strikingly nuanced voice of its first person narrator, African American, aspiring artist, Jade. Jade makes collages as she makes her way into new, uncertain worlds – first, her scholarship-driven move to a new, predominantly white school, then again on being assigned a mentor in a programme designed to support promising, disadvantaged young women. As she grows up and gets on, Jade’s artistic eye shines new light on the world around her: “Tonight I am taking ugly and making beautiful.” This same eye not only sees, but sees through. Jade has a penetrating vision and an uncanny knack for noting and challenging the expectations, inconsistencies and inequalities that routinely tear her apart and leave her piecing herself back together again. This book respects and celebrates the intelligence and insights of its young narrator. It has powerful things to say about education, law and social policy. It is a timely read, recommended for educators as much as for its intended Young Adult audience. The audiobook is narrated by the author – a wonderful reading that adds to the power of this singularly smart voice.

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About this month's reviewer

July’s Top Texts have been chosen by Martin Galway, an experienced primary teacher, former film lecturer and English lead who currently works as a Primary English advisor for Herts for Learning. He regularly blogs for his employers @HertsEnglish and on his personal blog site https://quietfireworks.blog/. Find him on Twitter as @GalwayMr.

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