Top Texts for May

This month’s Top Texts are chosen by Ann Lazim, Literature and Library Development Manager at the Centre for Literacy in Primary Education.

Nimesh the Adventurer

During Nimesh’s journey home from school, two voices, indicated in different fonts, exchange views about what they are seeing and experiencing around them. One character, interjecting from off-stage, sees a corridor, a road, while Nimesh sees landscapes of adventure involving dragons, sharks and pirates. Nimesh’s flights of fancy (or are they?) are beautifully interwoven with the realms of reality in the stunning collage illustrations in which multi-cultural aspects of the local surroundings can be seen in images and environmental print. Lantana is renowned for cross-cultural collaborations in their picture book publishing, and here the talents of a writer of East Indian heritage and an Iranian-British illustrator have been combined.

My Brigadista Year

Best known for Bridge to Terabithia, her moving novel about friendship and loss, Katherine Paterson has been a lifelong international advocate for literacy. In this story, written as though it were an autobiography, the 1961 literacy campaign in Cuba is seen through the eyes of a thirteen year old girl who volunteers to travel from Havana to the Escambray Mountains to play her part in teaching villagers there to read and write. Lora overcomes many obstacles, including opposition from her family to her becoming a brigadista and from some of those she has been sent to teach, but her likeable and determined character come through. Negative aspects of recent Cuban history are acknowledged in an author’s note but this story about the achievement of the country’s literacy campaign and the benefits it brought is inspirational.

Ghost Boys

In the wake of the Black Lives Matter movement comes this novel by an African American writer whose writing has been too long delayed in reaching UK readers. In the current climate of youth, in particular black boys, dying violently on both sides of the Atlantic, this publication is all too timely. The story is narrated by Jerome who has died after being shot by a police officer who thought he was holding a gun. The opening shocks as Jerome sees his own body lying on the snowy ground. The novel alternates between sections where Jerome is a ghost, mingling with other black boys who have died violently including Emmett Till, giving the book a sense of history, and sections where he is still alive and describing the events leading up to the shooting. The use of the present tense and short sentences make this a fast-paced and gripping, as well as thought-provoking, read.

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About this month's reviewer

May’s Top Texts have been chosen by Ann Lazim, Literature and Library Development Manager at the Centre for Literacy in Primary Education. www.clpe.org.uk. Ann has been a Librarian for 40 years, advising teachers, parents and publishers about children’s books. With an MA in Children’s Literature, she is an expert in international children’s literature, through her work at CLPE and with IBBY, the International Board on Books for Young People.

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