From the slums to the circus, a mixed-race Victorian boy seeks a place to belong. Ted lives with his mum and poorly big brother in the city of Bradfield. When a stranger turns up in their kitchen, Ted gets two big surprises. Firstly, the man – Pablo Fanque – is the first black circus owner in Britain. Secondly, he is Ted’s father. Before Ted can recover from his shock, he’s sent away with Pablo to learn the tricks of the circus trade. Pablo is determined that Ted should follow in his footsteps. But Ted isn’t at all keen on this terrifying new life among strangers. Can he adapt to it? And will he ever see his mother and brother again?

Aya is eleven years old and has just arrived in Britain with her mum and baby brother, seeking asylum from war in Syria. When Aya stumbles across a local ballet class, the formidable dance teacher spots her exceptional talent and believes that Aya has the potential to earn a prestigious ballet scholarship. But at the same time, Aya and her family must fight to be allowed to remain in the country, to make a home for themselves and to find Aya’s father – separated from the rest of the family during the journey from Syria. With beautiful, captivating writing, wonderfully authentic ballet detail, and an important message championing the rights of refugees, this is classic storytelling – filled with warmth, hope and humanity.

Yawnalot is a sleepy old town until Abracazebra rides in on her bicycle. Suddenly, all the animals flock to see her incredible magic show – all except Goat, who is grumpy and jealous of her. But in the end, even Goat is won over and realises that everybody needs a little magic. A wonderfully original new picture book about the importance of celebrating diversity.

One day in the forest, a young bear stumbles upon something he has never seen before. As time passes, he teaches himself how to play the strange instrument – and, eventually, the beautiful sounds are heard by a father and son who are picnicking in the woods.

The bear’s piano playing makes him a huge star, but he misses the friends and family he has left behind. Could it be that money and celebrity are not everything?

1. Things You Find In A Poet’s Beard (p.10) What else might you find in a poet’s beard? Think of some different poets – nice ones, disgusting ones, useful ones… How do the contents of their beards differ? Try making it into a list poem. Maybe it could be a shopping list of things you need to put I your beard to be a proper poet… Maybe it could be a chant the class can march round in circles to. Maybe it could be like the ‘I went to market…’ game – who can remember everything we’ve put in the beard…?

 

2. A Menagerie of Animals (p28) Try writing your own ‘riddles’. Can people guess what animal you’re describing? Try using kennings, like in the cat poem. A poem describing an animal can just be a long list of kennings, or you can mix them in with whole sentences or other descriptions. When writing a riddle remember to try to start with very general things (‘It’s a grey animal’ or ‘Meat-eater’ – things that could apply to lots of different animals) and get more specific as you go on (‘It can pick things up with its nose’ or ‘Stripey-hunter’).

 

3. The Flavour of the Night (p.34) The night doesn’t actually taste of these things, we’re using taste as a metaphor. Maybe you could try describing something else using an unusual sense. What is the smell of love? What does sadness sound like? What does Christmas taste of? What does chocolate sound like?

 

4. Lesser Known, But Not Less Important (p.54) Let’s learn about more of these ‘supernatural collectors’. First you need to find out what it collects… is it hair (perhaps from the hairbrush, or maybe from granddad’s nose)? or is it the dribble that sometimes come out your mouth when you’re asleep? Or is it the cheesy stuff from in-between your toes? And once you’ve discovered that, you can ask what sort of a creature is it? The Tooth Fairy is a Fairy. The Scab Pixie is a Pixie. The Ear-Wax Leprechaun is a Leprechaun. Is it a Saliva Gremlin? Or a Dandruff Goblin? Or an Eye-Lash Ghost? Then we can ask how it gets what it collects… does it come down the chimney like Santa, does it wait until you’ve gone to school, does it hide in the wardrobe until you start snoring…? Then we can ask what does it do with the stuff it collects…? Simply by asking these questions it’s really easy to learn about a brand new Supernatural Collector, and once you’ve learnt some facts you can write a poem or a story… perhaps a ‘Day In The Life’ or a first person ‘The thing I hate/love about my job…’

 

5. Alphapoem (p.73) Sometimes a poem is easier to write when you’ve got a frame to build it on. The alphabet is a good example. You can set a theme (food or animals, say) and try to make a complete alphabet, or you can use the alphabet like an acrostic without saying ‘A is for…’, just have each line begin with the letter in question. Other frameworks like this could include counting poems (see, The Iced Bun Song for a simple example (p.16)), either going up or down (countdown to blast off, for example), or days of the week, months of the year, and so on.

 

6. Performance A lot of the poems in the book are made for reading out loud, and not just reading aloud, but for performing. Kids can work in groups or on their own on a favourite poem and incorporate movement and gesture into their performance. Important things to bear in mind when performing a poem are: does it all have to be loud? does it all have to be fast? does it all have to be quiet? does it all have to be soft? is the voice of the poem happy? is it sad? is it scary? surprised? do I want the listeners to laugh? Examples of good performance poems include the set from p.94 onwards, but lots of the others all through the book are good for this too. Most exciting is seeing a kid or kids taking a poem that I (the poet) don’t normally perform and making it their own, showing me how to do it.

 

7. Discussion A lot of the poems are funny, silly poems, but some of them (even some funny, silly ones) might be used for discussion in class, about feelings (p.68-72?), about history (p.66), about why we write/make art (p.63), for example. You know your kids and you’ll have the better idea of what will work in your classroom, in your specific circumstances, but you may find a poem like Troll Song (p.74), which looks at a fairy tale character from a different point of view, is a good window to look through, or you might a different one works best.

 

The feature image was illustrated by the fabulous Iszi Lawrence.

Minibeasts in all their glory gather in this brand-new book from the creators of Bumpus Jumpus Dinosaurumpus. Join in with beetles and ladybirds, ants and bees and bugs galore as they dance the night away! But who is missing from the fun . . . will poor slow snail arrive in time? Bug-fans everywhere will enjoy this insect romp – perfect to enjoy both in and out of the classroom; with its read-aloud rhyming text and exuberant illustrations, this is a sure-fire winner from the popular duo, Tony Mitton and Guy Parker-Rees, illustrator of the bestselling Giraffes Can’t Dance – for pure clap-along, dance-along fun.

1899. All Nansi knows is that she and her mother were running away from someone, and then she was being fished out of Cardiff docks with no memory of how she got there. Her mother hasn’t been seen since. With nobody else to turn to, she works for Pernicious Sid at the Empire Theatre. She loves it when she gets the chance to perform and dreams of being a star, but Sid also makes her steal, sneaking into rich houses dressed as a maid, telling her the money will pay for a dectective to find out who she is. Life is hard but Nansi is a fighter, determined to protect her friend Bee and, most of all, to find her mother.

Everything changes when Constance and Violet join the theatre. At first it looks like Violet might be Nansi’s big break, but it’s Con that holds the real secret. Who can Nansi trust? As she starts to get closer to the truth, she’s soon on the run for her life.

Can she save her mother? Can she save herself?

Eloise Williams’s wild, dark Victorian thriller has a brave, complex heroine who will break your heart and make you cheer. ‘It’s hard to drown when you’re as good at swimming as I am…’

A boy covered in hair, raised as a monster, condemned to life in a travelling freak show. A boy with an extraordinary power of observation and detection. A boy accused of murder; on the run; hungry for the truth. Behold the savage spectacle of Wild Boy. Ladies and Gentlemen, take your seats. The show is about to begin!

EXPLORE the BOOK TASTER to READ THE FIRST CHAPTER

 

A fiendishly pacy mystery-adventure story set in the seamy, smoggy underworld of Victorian London