Top Texts for June 2023

Amy Greatrex has chosen some of her favourite picture fiction for EYFS

The Boy with Flowers in His Hair

by Jarvis

Using the book corner as a place to reflect children’s identities can lead to acceptance of others and ourselves. The Boy with Flowers in His Hair has been a powerful tool of empathy within my reception class and school. Wanting to reflect a child who has been on an Alopecia journey this year, this book brought understanding at the loss of something so personal. Told through the beauty of vivid watercolour flowers, when David losses his flowers, the reader feels that loss with him. The kindness shown by his best friend, teacher and peers, builds David’s confidence and acceptance of who he is, regardless of his physical appearance. Children are shown beauty is from how we react and what we create, whether that be paper flowers to wear, or a community of respect. This book lent itself to a magical drama performance that saw the children act as the flowers in all their stages. The impact of such a profoundly simple book is still felt across school, with parents commenting how deeply it affected their children and how much love they felt for the protagonist. This book is a strong testament to books being able to change lives and reflect who we are.

Martha Maps it Out

by Leigh Hodgkinson

Maps fascinate our youngest children, creating treasure maps with the elusive ‘x’ marks the spot, drawing playgrounds, looking at theme park maps or searching the ‘Land of Nod’ in the ‘Ten Minutes to Bed…’ series. Martha Maps it Out takes this love to a layered level, which also encapsulates young children’s understanding of the world and its mesmerising scale. Starting with the Universe and going through maps of Martha’s life until we see, not only her flat, her bedroom, but also her thoughts, questions and feelings. It’s a book to be shared, scanned and promotes deep book talk between the reader and listener. It’s a book that enables you to naturally discuss your own life, the area you live in and the features that make it special to children, such as parks, schools and transport. There are funny asides which point to the imperfections of life, such as Dad’s sock on the bathroom floor, wholly refreshing for adults who see Instagram versions of homes daily. What makes this book unique is the identity of Martha which comes through, her love of space, her monkey, her special trinkets which all children treasure. Most of all we see her neighbours and the differences they share in a close proximity to her, and how this makes our community rich. It is a mirror to our diverse and wondrous society, a book that talks about all people by closely focusing on one individual child, ‘it takes a village to raise a child’, it takes this book to reflect how a community impacts the growth of one young life.

The Girl who Loves Bugs

by Lily Murray and Jenny Lovlie

Picture books can teach adults how to teach children, or can point adults in the direction of showing children where to look. The Girl Who Loves Bugs is a story about a young girl who loves bugs so much, she takes them into her bedroom which results in some minibeast mischief for her whole family who do not share her love of six legged creatures. It goes beyond this fictional story and shares the real life ‘girl who loves bugs’, Evelyn Chessman, an English entomologist who collected around 70,000 specimens of insects, plants and other animals for the Natural History Museum. This led to research about her life on the Natural History Museum website which has an extensive biography of her research and unbeatable spirit. Working at a time when women were not admitted to the Royal College of Veterinary Surgeons, Evelyn went on many solo expeditions to find and document our planets insects. We all now benefit from the knowledge she brought back, her story of being trapped in the low-hanging webs of the Nephila spider and spending several hours freeing herself with a nail file seriously impressed my daughter. This book inspires us to get outside in the spaces we have, to notice the minibeasts around us and to provide them homes. The suggestion of using fir cones and piles of sticks to make an affordable ladybird home point to a sustainable and plastic free way of cultivating our future gardeners. The book is beautifully illustrated by Jenny Lovlie and compliments ‘A Dress with Pockets’. My favourite part was the stoic Grandma becoming the real hero of the book, a reminder to not judge ‘a book by its cover’, or to dismiss the joy and love nature can bring us all, regardless of age.



Amy Greatrex

About this month's reviewer

Amy Greatrex – Amy is the Early Years Phase Lead at a school in Nottingham, where she is the Reading and Writing for Pleasure Lead. Amy won the Farshore UKLA Experienced Teacher Award 2022 for her Reading Rivers work, which promotes young children to see themselves as readers. Amy co-leads a Teachers’ Reading Group and will be speaking at this years OU conference about her own reading journey and the impact of being valued as a reader from a young age. Amy is passionate about picture books for all ages, especially to gain empathy and pleasure. Amy is currently planning the school’s annual Summer Booknic Festival.