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Top Texts for July

​This month’s Top Texts have been chosen by Joy Court, Reviews Editor for The School Librarian journal. She has chosen three thought provoking and enjoyable books that will stimulate much conversation!

The Suitcase by Chris Naylor-Ballesteros

Truly a book for our troubled times this is a perfect example of how quality picture books can work with multiple age groups and audiences. Published to coincide with National Refugee Week this powerfully empathetic text shows the importance of kindness to strangers and is a plea for welcome, tolerance and understanding. When a strange- looking animal arrives pulling a suitcase, the other animals are curious and questioning. What is in his suitcase? His answers leave them even more puzzled. A teacup? A wooden table and chair? A wooden cabin? On a hill surrounded by trees? He must be fibbing! Exhausted he falls asleep and the animals shamefully talk themselves into opening his case. What they find there shocks them to the core and they understand just what the poor creature has been through. What they do then is what takes the reader by surprise and fills you with joy and hope for humanity. The illustrations are simply superb! The black expressive line, the positioning and the body language of all the creatures speaks louder than words. The colour of the creature compared to the woodland hues of the other animals subtly indicates difference. The sepia tones used to show his memories and past life contrast with the brighter colours of the end result of the animal’s actions. An important and truly heart-warming text that will inspire lots of valuable discussion.

The Good Thieves by Katherine Rundell

Any new book by Katherine Rundell is a cause for rejoicing! Each time you think she cannot get any better and each time you are seduced all over again. It is the breath-taking clarity of her prose which just makes you yearn for an audience to which to read it aloud. From the opening sentence: Vita set her jaw, and nodded at New York City in greeting, as a boxer greets an opponent before a fight, you know that Vita Marlowe is going to be a character that lives with you. She and her mother have travelled to New York to rescue her beloved Grandfather, swindled out of his home and possessions by a thoroughly satisfactory villain- Sorrotore a notorious conman with Mafia connections. While her Mother takes a legal route, Vita, who does not allow her disability to stop her doing anything, ventures out into 1920’s New York and makes friends. A young pickpocket and two especially talented boys from the Circus across the road from her building reluctantly agree to help in her plan to find the hidden treasure and restore the family home. Sam and Arkady are beautifully nuanced characters with their own secrets and battles for representation and inclusion to win. This is a thoroughly nail bitingly tense and action packed adventure with genuine peril for all the youngsters. The setting is richly and vividly evoked and the reader is completely immersed and genuinely reluctant to leave at the thoroughly satisfying conclusion. This book is an absolute joy to read but also had some profound and beautiful things to say about love and grieving.

The House of Light by Julia Green

A remarkable, subtle vision of a near and all too possible bleak future after climate change has wreaked havoc on the world. Border Guards and suspicion keep the inhabitants trapped on a nameless island surrounded by a supposedly poisoned sea and scraping an existence from the land. Bonnie lives with her Granda, who is growing increasingly frail. Bonnie is a natural rebel, she has no patience for what passes as education, although non-attendance is punishable. When she discovers, first a boat, and then the injured boy who arrived in it, she hides both, which is even more dangerous. But her mother left by sea when Bonnie was a baby. Could this boat be Bonnie’s route to freedom? But she has both the injured boy and her beloved Granda to consider and the mystery surrounding her mother and the identity of her father to solve and the Guards are now on her trail. This is a truly thrilling read, a heart-stopping adventure which has no need to labour the details of the dystopian society in which it is set. The natural landscape is so vividly and lyrically realised and the nuances of the relationships are so movingly portrayed that the reader is absolutely in the moment with Bonnie. A novel which will really speak to the climate activism growing amongst our young people but encouragingly is also one where love, courage, friendship and hope prevail.

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About this month's reviewer

Joy Court is Reviews Editor for The School Librarian journal and Chair of the CILIP Carnegie and Kate Greenaway Medals. She is also a Trustee and member of the National Council of UKLA where she sits on the selection panel for the UKLA Book Awards.

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