Lip Service (All surface, No depth)


I see lots of stuff about curriculum, in fact since the introduction of the EIF (new Ofsted framework) it feels like this is all that we see.

Much of it is shiny, and beautifully designed (it must’ve taken hours). Aesthetically pleasing but with the depth of a thimble.

Knowledge organisers in some places sit at the core as the be-all and end-all of the learning rather than the foundation layer for developing knowledge and understanding.

Quizzing is the new assessment, recall of the facts is all.

Ofsted suggests “Knowing more words makes you smarter” and a thousand vocabulary lists are printed, laminated and sent home before the sentence is even finished.

The current simple view of education seems to be that this will make the difference.

Don’t get me wrong I think curriculum is the answer to practically every question, but I think getting a curriculum right is an on-going complex process. Ask anybody who’s really put in the hours in getting curriculum right for their school and they’ll tell it’s blummin’ tricky.  I truly believe the hours spent developing ‘The What’ are worth every minute.

Engagement is an educational swear-word associated with poor lesson design and poor learning. I’d argue it sits at the core of great learning. I suggest engaged pupils truly remember what they do, we just need to make sure they remember the stuff they need.

Meanwhile we seem intent on stripping ‘The How’ of teaching back to its barest bones. Ignoring the power of good teachers and creating a model that all can deliver. (Maybe that’s what you have to do when you can’t get enough teachers of the quality you want).

Genuinely I feel for young teachers, there is no time to learn. If I were to look back on my formative years in the classroom, they were literally littered with mistakes. I however was lucky, I worked with great people who helped me develop. Do we give the next generation the time to be good. I see lots cast on the scrap-heap without a second glance. There is no time for losers. Be good or be gone. Have we forgotten our responsibility to develop the next generation?

Behaviour is regularly seen as a massive issue in schools. Yet we seem to have forgotten to teach children why and how they should behave. Equally we seem to not bother teaching teachers about classroom management.  Instead we create systems where we wield sanctions like a ‘cane of Damocles’ and all children are expected to behave.  Those who for whatever reason can’t quite reach this halcyon standard are discarded for the ‘Greater Good.’


‘Think of the 29’ is the clarion call. I don’t disagree that we should remove disruptive children if they are stopping others learning, in-fact I completely believe we should. I also believe we have a responsibility to the 1. How are those children supported…taught. Sadly it seems that some are happy for there to be a few educational casualties cast by the wayside as societal detritus for the benefit of the many. A decision that will come back to haunt those communities forever more.

We seem to have lost our role. Schools should be sat at the heart of a community, increasingly the community is kept at arms length. For all the government’s talk of parents having a greater voice in education, increasingly in this age the voice of the true stakeholders has been mightily diminished.

In our thrust for ‘education’ we seem to be forgetting the role of ‘Schooling’ and the role of Schools.


Bedtime Library books…a starter list.

Here’s a starter list of brilliant bedtime books, I’m sure you can think of loads more. They’re  not necessarily books to use in a classroom (though lots are brilliant for use in the classroom)  but they are all fantastic to read and share.

I want my Hat Back by Jon Klassen (I’d recommend all the hat books and the shape books with Mac Barnett as well, just brilliant)

Horrible Bear by Ame Dyckman and Zachariah O’Hara (Ame is one of my favorite got picturebook authors for read aloud brilliance)

Stanley’s Stick by Jon Hegley and Neal Layton

Grumpy Frog by Ed Vere (Huge fan of Ed Vere all his books are wonderful to read and share)

Is There a Dog In This book by Viviane Schwartz (Another read aloud superstar)

Orion and the Dark by Emma Yarlett

Dogger by Shirley Hughes

The Book With No Pictures by BJ Novak

The Disgusting Sandwich by Gareth Edwards and Hannah Shaw

Don’t Let the Pigeon Drive the Bus by Mo Willems

Each Peach Pear Plum by Janet and Allan Ahlberg

Frog and Toad Are Friends by Arnold Lobel

Giraffes Can’t Dance by Giles Andreae and Guy Parker-Rees

Goodnight Moon by Margaret Wise Brown

The Gruffalo by Julia Donaldson and Axel Schaeffer(Always reliable brilliant to read aloud, most of Julia’s book are fantastic bedtime reads)

Hairy Maclary from Donaldson’s Dairy by Lynley Dodd

King Baby by Kate Beaton

Knuffle Bunny: A Cautionary Tale by Mo Willems

The Last Noo-noo by Jill Murphy

The Little Mouse, The Red Ripe Strawberry and the Big Hungry Bear by Audrey Wood and Don Wood

Lost and Found by Oliver Jeffers

Hansel and Gretel by Bethan Woolvin

Not Now Bernard by David McKee

Wild by Emily Huighes

Meg and Mog by Helen Nicoll and Jan Pienkowski

Mog the Forgetful Cat by Judith Kerr

The Bad Seed by Jory John and Pete Oswald

On Summer Hill by Linda Sarah and Benji Davis

The Storm Whale by Benji Davies (in fact any of Benji’s books)

Sun by Sam Usher (all his season books are great)

This is not a picturebook by Sergo Ruzzier

Interrupting Chicken by David Ezra Stern

My Big Shouting Day by Rebecca Patterson

The Night Pirates by Peter Harris and Deborah Allwright

Oi Frog by Kes Gray and Jim Field

The Wonky Donkey by Craig Smith and Katz Cowley

Where the Wild Things Are by Maurice Sendak.

This Rabbit Belongs to Emily Brown by Cressida Cowell and Neal Layton (I’ve read this book at bedtime more than any other in the world ever!)

Traction Man By Mini Grey (Mini is another bedtime read superstar)

The Very Hungry Caterpillar by Eric Carle

We’re Going on A Bear Hunt by Michael Rosen and Helen Oxenbury

Stick Man by Julia Donaldson and Axel Shaeffer

Owl Babies by Martin Waddell

Peace at Last by Jill Murphy

The Tiger Who Came to Tea by Judith Kerr

Oh No George! By Chris Haughton (in fact any Chris Haugton books)




Please comment with other suggestions

The Bedtime Library


This is just a quick share of something that has really worked for us.

We wanted to develop children’s love of story and build that breadth of language that children have. We found that a number of our youngest children were not being read to at home and in-particular were not being read bedtime stories. We found that children were not seeing the joyous side of reading. Reading at home had become a trawl through a phonics related book (this was very much our fault).

For many these books were uninspiring and we realised they missed the essence of reading together, they missed the joy of talking and discussing a story, they missed the rhythms and patterns of great stories, they missed the prediction, the anticipation, the moments of revelation, they missed the creativity of language. (That’s not to say children don’t practice their reading at home as well.)

Because of that we set up the bedtime library for our youngest children. (it now goes all the way into year 2).

Essentially it’s a library of great children’s books (mainly picturebooks) to read and share at bedtime. The quality of the books is important.

It’s about putting great books in the hands of parents and children and helping them share them together. Let me say that it’s not about the children reading them to their parent, it’s about the parents reading them to their children. We have also run workshops with parents to help them, for some of our parents this is daunting that is why we always focus it on them and their child. Ultimately, it’s about a parent snuggling with their child and sharing a great book. It’s about creating bedtime routines, structures and special time.

It’s not rocket science. Children borrow the books for a week and then change it. Reading and rereading the same story is part of it, sometimes children don’t want to bring it back they love the book they have so much.

It takes a little investment to get the books, (my charity shop trawling has really helped with this) and we’ve found that we have to not be precious, if a book doesn’t come back, that doesn’t mean they child doesn’t get another one.

That’s it really…it really is that simple. We have a 95% uptake with our Reception children which is just fantastic and Year 1s and 2s are equally as keen.

Reading is so much more than decoding, it’s important we don’t lose sight of that.

(Now if somebody would like to offer us some books or money to expand it that would be great ;-))

Here is a list…that might help.

Bedtime Library books…a starter list.

Writing…Honestly, we need honesty.

This is a very quick blogpost.

Just sat here tidying up my hard-drive (in other words, procrastinating and avoiding work). And I found this. It  was written in a SATs test in 2004. No success criteria, no feature list just what he carried with him internally…

Before people get critical I know it’s not perfect, but what it was, was honest. 45 minutes, pen down, packaged and sent.



“Mam,” I said tugging on my mam’s arm, ”Can I go and get my new trainers now? Please!” She just ignored me. Like how rude is that, it was as if she was trying to wind me up. I know the next good thing I see, I’ll plead for her to get it for me. She’s bound to fall for it. So off we went down the heaving high street. “LOOK!” I screamed, “ Look at that game. Mam please can I get it. Please!” I put on my best sad face. She bought it, she bought the act. Yes, yes, yes. I’m getting the best game ever. “But Ben darling there is a big queue,” Mam told me, “So lets get in it,” I replied.

As I stood there it was then I saw this girl, this wonderful girl, this beautiful girl, she looked perfect. I looked at her and smiled. Seconds seemed like hours, me stood there grinning like a loon. Then just as all hope faded, she smiled back, she smiled BACK, BACK AT ME! I was  over the moon. I shouted “Hello,” down the line towards her. A huge grin spread across her face “Hi I’m Jenny,” Jenny, Jenny,  the most excellent name ever. She looks like an angel, a god sent angel. I was oblivious of everything around me, the sound that had grown louder and louder to a deafening roar.

Suddenly without warning the big double doors swung open and I found myself carried away on the wave of people. I tried to back away then realised that I wanted the game and dived back into the ruthless sea of idiots clamouring to get through the door. I saw Jenny disappear through the doors ahead of me. It was like squeezing through the eye of a needle, squashed so tight I almost couldn’t breathe. Then I was through, popping out like a cork. I ran for the games stand, full pelt, straining every muscle. Almost there just a daft lad in the way I barged him out the way and I was there. There at last. I grabbed the last game on the stand, just as someone else did.I tugged hard at the game then looked up. Just as I did so did she. Jenny, Jenny was there, the most wonderful girl ever was staring right into my eyes. I let go of the game and so did she. The stupid game bounced off the cold hard floor.

“You can have it!” I stammered. “No you,” she smiled. Just then a little kid darted between us and grabbed the game “Sorry,” I whispered. She grabbed my hand. “Do you want to get a drink?” she asked. My chin hit the floor, she was here, holding  MY hand! “Yes!” I mumbled. This was the best day of my life. I’ve been sort of asked out by the girl with the cutest smile ever. “Hard luck darling,” sighed Mam. “Shall we get you those trainers?” The trainers, the game, nothing mattered. Just Jenny. “I’m alright thanks Mam,” I smiled as me and Jenny wandered away.

Michael Clark aged 11

Why not give it a go? See what your children do. It could be interesting, maybe we could post some up and compare?

Now I’m not advocating writing tests before people get irate about that, but I am suggesting we give children opportunities to write independently and use that to judge our children’s writing. Not what they can  do with a structure, a success criteria and a checklist but what they do when it’s removed. Truly independent writing.

I am writing this in frustration really… as I look at comparison tables.




The first thing that jumps out particularly with writing is what a waste of time the data is. The second and I hate to say this is the dishonesty of teacher assessment.

Ultimately though it comes down to this…


How do we get honesty I wish I knew but these are the challenges as I see it you can probably add many more in your contexts.

Internal (Barriers to Honesty)

  • Performance related pay and performance management
  • Accountability
  • Fear
  • Lack of support
  • Lack of moderation
  • Poor CPD to develop understanding of Assessment system
  • Targets set by Heads/SLT
  • Use of systems and algorithms to decide whether pupils are there or not.

External (Barriers for schools)

  • Ofsted (Not through want of Sean Harford’s Myth-busting)
  • Fear
  • Raised expectations, ever-changing goalposts
  • Lack of consistency in application of framework
  • Threat of academisation/ floors standards/ coasting schools
  • DFE
  • LA
  • MAT
  • League table

I know this is not a very optimistic start to the New Year, but we are in the same place as we were last year with regards to writing, just more time to jump kids through the hoops.

That’s the real challenge for our school system this year and moving forward. How do we create as assessment system that is about improving and supporting the children’s journey through education rather than measuring schools.

If you have an answer please reply,  at the moment I’m out of ideas.



#20BestPicturebook2019 Numbers 5-1

Here is the final part…

Number 5

Stormy by Guojing

From the creator of the New York Times best-illustrated children’s book award winner The Only Child, comes a gorgeous and moving wordless picture book that’s perfect for dog lovers.

In this heartwarming, wordless picture book that’s perfect for dog lovers, a woman visits a park and discovers a pup hiding under a bench–scruffy, scared, and alone. With gentle coaxing, the woman tries to befriend the animal, but the dog is too scared to let her near. Day after day, the woman tries–and day after day, the dog runs away. With perseverance and patience–and help from an enticing tennis ball–a tentative friendship begins. But it’s not until a raging storm forces the two together that a joyous and satisfying friendship takes hold. Guojing poignantly explores how trust doesn’t always come easily, but how, over time, and with kindness and determination, forever love can grow.

This story shows more emotion without words than many a full-blown novel I’ve read. The illustration is sublime, the developing relationship between dog and girl even more so. Heart-warning and perfect, the use of colour and light is just magical.

I fought off Karl Duke to get my hands on this at Reading Rocks North. It was totally worth falling out with him over 😉

Number 4

Mum’s Jumper by Jayde Perkin

If mum has gone, how do you carry on?
Missing her feels like a dark cloud that follows you around, or like swimming to a shore that never comes nearer.
But memories are like a jumper that you can cuddle and wear. And Mum’s Jumper might be a way to keep her close.
A simple, heartfelt and ultimately uplifting book for anyone coping with loss.

Honest and real, this book totally captures the feelings of loss and grief and the need to hang on and cherish our memories. It equally captures the essence of loss from a child’s perspective.

Powerful and beautiful in equal measure. This is a special book.

Number 3


The Rabbit and the Motorbike by Kate Hoefler and Sarah Jacoby

A timeless fable of the journey from grief to acceptance that will touch every reader: Rabbit isn’t sure he’ll ever be brave enough to go on an adventure. He’s a homebody who lives in a quiet field of wheat he dreams of leaving every night. His world is enlarged by his friend Dog and Dog’s tales of motorbike adventures. But one day, Dog is gone, and with him, go the stories Rabbit loves so much. Dare Rabbit pick up the motorbike and live his own story?

• A touching tale for those confronting loss and those who are eager to explore and experience the world around them
• Rabbit’s bravery in the face of sadness will console, nurture, and inspire young readers
• Author Sarah Jacoby grew up wandering the woods outside of Philadelphia. She now draws for many people and places, including the New York Times, and she is the author and illustrator of Forever or a Day
• Illustrator Kate Hoefler received her MFA in poetry from the University of Michigan, where she studied as a Colby Fellow. She is the author of Real Cowboys and Great Big Things

A story about facing fears and trying something new. Sometimes we need a kirkstart to take a risk. This book deals with loss and hope in equal measure. It made me want to step outside the front door and head for the open road. It’s about how life can enrich and change us if we let it.

That’s a pretty powerful message for a picturebook.


Number 2

The Boy, the Mole, the Fox and The Horse by Charles Mackesy

‘You will not be able to buy a more beautiful book for Christmas for somebody you love’ Chris Evans

A book of hope for uncertain times.

Enter the world of Charlie’s four unlikely friends, discover their story and their most important life lessons.

The conversations of the boy, the mole, the fox and the horse have been shared thousands of times online, recreated in school art classes, hung on hospital walls and turned into tattoos. In Charlie’s first book, you will find his most-loved illustrations and some new ones too.

‘A wonderful work of art and a wonderful window into the human heart’ Richard Curtis

A book for today, tomorrow and everyday. Wonderful words and magical art that just makes you stop and think. This is a manifesto for being a good human.

It has been the core of my assemblies this term every page is a joy. I’d add I completely agree with mole about cake.


Number 1 

Small In The City by Sydney Smith

It can be a little scary to be small in a big city, but this child has some good advice for a very special friend in need. 

When you’re small in the city, people don’t see you, and loud sounds can scare you, and knowing what to do is sometimes hard. But this little kid knows what it’s like, and knows the neighborhood. That makes for some pretty good advice for an even smaller friend.

Like, alleys can be good shortcuts, but some are too dark.

Or, there are lots of good hiding places in the city, like under a mulberry bush or up a walnut tree.

And, if the city is too loud and scary, a small one can always just go back home, where it’s safe and quiet.

In his first author-illustrated picture book, Sydney Smith tells a contemplative, quiet story from the perspective of a child.

Sydney Smith’s first book that’s totally his is a masterpiece. Subtle, quiet, unsettling and wonderful. Everything from the size and format of the book, the measured language as a slow reveal to the superb layered art is just sublime. It’s perfect IMO

This is a small tale about big things. I can’t say more about the story without ruining it but just want add the book is a perfect read with a group of children, everytime there has been a moment of realisation and a desperate clamour to reread and pre over the detail. That says it all for me. Just brilliant.


Hope the list is useful.


Links to the rest of my #20BestPicturebooks2019 list


#20BestPicturebooks Number 10-6

#20BestPicturebooks2019 Numbers 15-11

#20BestPicturebooks2019 Numbers 20-16

#20BestPicturebooks2019 Numbers 20-16

I love the end of the year when people share their favourite books. Inevitably we all love different books and make different choices, that is part of the joy. 

So with that in mind these are my choices, books that I’ve loved this year… Hope you love them too.

Number 20

Just Because by Mac Barnett and Isabelle Arsenault

Why is the ocean blue? What is the rain? What happened to the dinosaurs?It might be time for bed, but one child is too full of questions about the world to go to sleep just yet. Little ones and their parents will be charmed and delighted as a patient father offers up increasingly creative responses to his child’snighttimewonderings. Any child who has ever asked “Why?” — and any parent who has attempted an explanation — will recognize themselves in this sweet storybook for dreamers who are looking for answers beyond “Just because.”

Curious minds are rewarded with curious answers in a fantastical bedtime book by Mac Barnett and Isabelle Arsenault.

This is every bedtime conversation I’ve ever had with my sons. The book captures children’s incessant curiosity and the wild imaginations and lengths grown-ups go to to fill it.

Wild, imaginative words are perfectly realised by vivid whole page spreads. It’s both sweet and true, what’s not to like.

Number 19

Wild Honey from the Moon by Kenneth Kraegel


In an epic adventure like no other, an unflappable mother will stop at nothing to find a cure for her ailing young son — even if it means traveling to the moon itself.

“Where are you going?”
“To the moon. A quick trip.”
“But you can’t fly.”
“Darling, I am your mother,” she said, and gave him one last kiss.

On a cold winter’s eve, deep in the woods, a mother shrew frets about her sick young son. His head is cold and his feet are hot, and there is only one thing that can cure him: wild honey from the moon. Mother Shrew does not stop to wonder how she will make such an impossible journey. Instead, she grabs her trusty red umbrella, gives her darling son a kiss, and sets out into the unknown. Along the way, Mother Shrew encounters one obstacle after another, from a malevolent owl to a herd of restless “night mares” to an island humming with angry bees. But each can prove no match for a mother on a mission. From the mind of the uniquely talented Kenneth Kraegel comes an utterly original ode to the limitlessness of maternal love.

Wildly surreal and wonderfully odd. This book may not be for everyone. What it is though is a book about maternal love and the lengths a mother will goto to protect her child. What it also is is a wild adventure with full of wonder and spectacle none of which is a match for a mother on a mission. I loved it

Number 18

It Began with a Page (How Gyo Fujisawa drew the way) by Kyo Maclean and Julie Morsted

GyoFujikawa’siconic children’s books are beloved all over the world. Now it’s time forGyo’sstory to be told — a story of artistic talent that refused to be constrained by rules or expectations.

Growing up quiet and lonely at the beginning of the twentieth century,Gyolearned from her relatives the ways in which both women and Japanese people lacked opportunity. Her teachers and family believed in her and sent her to art school and later Japan, where her talent flourished. But whileGyo’scareer grew and led her to work for Walt Disney Studios, World War II began, and with it, her family’s internment. ButGyonever stopped fighting — for herself, her vision, her family and her readers — and later wrote and illustrated the first children’s book to feature children of different races interacting together.

This luminous new book beautifully and openly touches onGyo’sdifficult experiences and growth. Through JulieMorstad’sexquisite illustrations, alternating between striking black-and-whitelineworkand lush colour, andKyoMaclear’sartful and accessible writing, the story of this cherished figure is told at last.

I love picturebook biographies and this is literally one of the best I’ve read. Maclear’s poetic writing is added depth by Morsted intricate layered art that often directly mimics Fujikawa’s work.

It’s a fascinating story of a women who had to fight every step of the way to achieve her goals. Whilst I was aware of Fujikawa’s books I wasn’t aware of the continual fight she had to undertake to make them a reality. It’s that story that truly makes this a great book.

Number 17

Finding Narnia by Caroline McAllister and Jessica Lanan

Finding Narniais Caroline McAlister and JessicaLanan’scaptivating picture book biography of two brothers, Jack andWarnieLewis, whose rich imaginations led to the creation of the magical world of Narnia.

Before C.S. Lewis wrote The Chronicles of Narnia, he was a young boy named Jack who spent his days dreaming up stories of other worlds filled with knights, castles, and talking animals. His brother, Warnie, spent his days imagining worlds filled with trains, boats, and technology. One rainy day, they found a wardrobe in a little room next to the attic, and they wondered, What if the wardrobe had no end?

Years later, Jack began to think about what could be beyond that wardrobe, and about a girl named Lucy and her siblings. This picture book biography introduces the beloved creator of The Chronicles of Narnia to a new generation of children who see hidden magic in the world around them.

Another picturebook biography. This time exploring the relationship between C.S Lewis and his brother Warnie and how that spurred the creation of Narnia.

This meticulously researched book is as magical as the world Lewis created.

Number 16

Paws + Edward by Espen Dekko and Mari Kansted Johnsen

Paws is tired. He just wants to rest. And to dream about the days when he used to chase rabbits. He still walks with Edward to the park twice a day, but only because Edward needs the fresh air. Until one day, Paws decides he doesn’t want to go for another walk. He just wants to lie in Edward’s bed. Paws has walked and walked. His paws are heavy. Paws doesn’t have to walk anymore. Paws doesn’t have to do anything anymore. And Paws falls asleep one last time, leaving Edward to dream of the days when Paws used to chase rabbits

A beautiful and gentle book that both captures the magical relationship between a boy and his dog and also how we feel when we lose what is often our closest friend.

A wonderful book about dealing with loss that is both honest and full of love. It genuinely made me happy and sad at the same time. I did cry.


Links for other#20BestPicturebooks2019 posts

#20BestPicturebook2019 Numbers 5-1

#20BestPicturebooks Number 10-6

#20BestPicturebooks2019 Numbers 15-11

#20BestPicturebooks Number 10-6

Here is part 3…


Number 10

Charles Darwin’s On the Origin of the Species by Sabina Radeva


A picture book adaptation of Charles Darwin’s groundbreaking On the Origin of Species, lushly illustrated and told in accessible and engaging easy-to-understand text for young readers. 

On the Origin of Species revolutionized our understanding of the natural world. Now young readers can discover Charles Darwin’s groundbreaking theory of evolution for themselves in this stunning picture-book adaptation that uses stylish illustrations and simple text to introduce how species form, develop, and change over time.

Who’d have thought that “On the Origin of the Species” could be made into a picturebook.

This is beautifully illustrated and accessible. This introduces difficult concepts around Darwin’s work in a way that means all can understand. Now that truly is a remarkable feat.


Number 9

Truman by Jean Reidy and Lucy Ruth Cummins


An NPR Favorite Book of 2019
A New York Times Best Children’s book of 2019
A Kirkus Reviews Best Picture Book of 2019
A School Library Journal Best Picture Book of 2019

“An enchanting tale of bravery, heroism, and undying devotion.” —The New York Times Book Review

After his best friend Sarah leaves for her first day of school, a tortoise named Truman goes on an adventure across the living room and learns to be brave in this thoughtful and heartwarming twist on a first experience story.

Truman the tortoise lives with his Sarah, high above the taxis and the trash trucks and the number eleven bus, which travels south. He never worries about the world below…until one day, when Sarah straps on a big backpack and does something Truman has never seen before. She boards the bus!

Truman waits for her to return.
He waits.
And waits.
And waits.
And when he can wait no longer, he knows what he must do.

Even if it seems…impossible!

There is a reason it’s won so many awards. It’s just utterly wonderful. Heroism comes in many forms but Truman really is a hero. A small journey made truly epic. Just delightful.


Number 8

Lights on Cotton Rock by David Litchfield

There was no book-bio quote on Goodreads so I’m just going to make one up. Having spent a brilliant day exploring this with Karl Duke. I just want to say it’s a book that warrants exploration and discussion

Lights on Cotton Rock is a story of families, dreams, space travel and time. Ultimately it is about helping us realise that the thing we most want may be closer than we think. Beautifully told almost part graphic novel at point. Litchfield art truly does take us to another place. (He is the master of creating and using light in his art, the pages almost glow.)


Number 7

A Mouse Called Julian by Joe Todd Stanton

Julian is a mouse who is perfectly happy avoiding other animals. They seem to just get in the way and sometimes even try to eat him! But one day, Julian has an unexpected dinner guest…When the fox tries to sneak into Julian’s burrow for a tasty bite of mouse, it finds itself stuck headfirst in Julian’s front door!

This a joyous Aesop like fable about unlikely friendships but also about being happy being you. In turns funny and poignant, Todd Stanton plays that clever trick of making us care about Julian.

Rich, detailed vibrant, illustration bring this joyful tale to life. Just delicious.

Number 6

Look Up by Nathan Bryon and Dapo Adeola

Meet Rocket–a plucky aspiring astronaut intent on getting her community to LOOK UP! from what they’re doing and reach for the stars in this auspicious debut picture book. 

A comet will be visible tonight, and Rocket wants everyone to see it with her–even her big brother, Jamal, whose attention is usually trained on his phone or video games. Rocket’s enthusiasm brings neighbors and family together to witness a once-in-a-lifetime sighting. Perfect for fans of Ada Twist, Scientist and young science lovers excited about the 50th anniversary of the moon landing, Look Up! will inspire readers of all ages to dream big as it models Rocket’s passion for science and infectious curiosity.

Author Nathan Bryon, an actor and screenwriter, and Dapo Adeola, a community-minded freelance illustrator, bring their fresh talents, passion, and enthusiasm to the picture book medium

Rocket is my absolute favourite picturebook character this year. This is a story for now. The message is clear about the dangers of technology and how they might make us miss the real world, but this isn’t done in a heavy-handed way. Instead we get placed in the middle of a wonderfully real family, doing everyday family thing. Rocket is totally that annoying younger sibling and Jamal is that growing up to soon older brother. The story is fabulous , but the art takes the book to another level bringing the family to vivid life.

It’s a book full of love and humour totally not to be missed.


Links to other #20BestPicturebooks2019 post

#20BestPicturebook2019 Numbers 5-1

#20BestPicturebooks2019 Numbers 15-11#20BestPicturebooks2019 Numbers 20-16

#20BestPicturebooks2019 Numbers 15-11

Here is part 2

Number 15

The Tide by Clare Helen Welsh and Ashling Lindsay

A young girl loves her grandpa so much! When they spend the day at the beach, she holds his hand as they go for a walk, and they build sand castles together. But sometimes, its difficult, because Grandpa has become forgetful. Grandpa’s memories are like the tide, Mommy explains. Sometimes, they’re near and full of life. Other times, they’re distant and quiet. The Tide is a story about families, laughter, and how we can help a loved one with dementia live well.

A beautiful, delicate tale that explores the the impact of dementia. It’s is however more than that it’s a story about families, love and the relationships we have. It’s quiet and thoughtful, but also full of life and verve. Welsh and Lindsay complement each other perfectly to create a story to cherish like our memories.

Number 14

Max attacks by Kathi Appelt and Penelope Dullaghan


Fish and birds and lizards and socks…is there anything Max won’t attack? Watch your ankles and find out in this clever, rhyming picture book about a very naughty kitty cat.

Max is a cat. He attacks. From socks to strings to many a fish, attacking, for Max, is most de-lish. But how many of these things can he actually catch? Well, let’s just say it’s no even match.

Max is every cat. The secret killer behind the furry exterior. This book totally captures the ridiculousness of cats as a domestic animal. It’s laugh out loud funny and utterly joyous in its celebration of cat-ness.

Apelt’s playful writing is perfectly shown in Dullaghan’s expressive vibrant art. Just a joy!

Number 13

Kai and the Monkey king by Joe Todd Stanton

When Kai grows tired of her bookish mum not being adventurous enough for a Brownstone, she decides to seek out the mischievous and rebellious Monkey King – who she’s always been told to stay away from. Will he bring her the adventure she craves, or will he cause her more trouble than he’s worth?

Read the latest story from the mythical Brownstone’s family vault where we venture to China and learn about the story of the Monkey King, meet magical gods, taste powerful peaches and see that maybe our heroes aren’t always what they’re cracked up to be.

Winner of the 2018 Waterstones Children’s Book Prize, longlisted for the CILIP Kate Greenaway Medal, and most recently nominated for an Eisner for Arthur and the Golden Rope, Joe Todd-Stanton is a master at storytelling and illustration, and this time he takes his history loving adventurer deep into Chinese mythology

Joe Todd Santon goes from strength to strength. This third in the “Brownstone Mythical Collection” is just as good as the first two (that’s a huge compliment by the way). Steeped in Ancient Chinese Mythology this time we journey with Kai on her quest.

The detail of the art is astounding, creating yet another wonderful book to pore over again and again. Top-notch.


Number 12

The Flops by Delphine Durand

A book full of advice about how not to make a flop’s life hard! What is a flop? A flop is malleable, can’t make a telephone call on its own, can’t wear a collar, and many other things besides. There are also hundreds of different sorts of flops. In a humorous, pseudo-scientific guide, Delphine Durand creates a world teeming with flops, describing their characteristics and lifestyles with great humor and precision. Delphine Durand spent her childhood in Senegal, then in Montpellier. She has worked in children’s books, advertising, and for the press since 1996. 

This is my favourite fiction non-fiction book this year. Wild, creative and utterly bonkersly brilliant. It’s so brilliant I was almost convinced/hoped the flops were real.

Durand leaves no detail unthought of to convince us these creatures exist. Fab fantastical fun.

Number 11

The Undefeated by Kwame Alexander and Kadir Nelson

The Newbery Award-winning author of THE CROSSOVER pens an ode to black American triumph and tribulation, with art from a two-time Caldecott Honoree.

Originally performed for ESPN’s The Undefeated, this poem is a love letter to black life in the United States. It highlights the unspeakable trauma of slavery, the faith and fire of the civil rights movement, and the grit, passion, and perseverance of some of the world’s greatest heroes. The text is also peppered with references to the words of Martin Luther King, Jr., Langston Hughes, Gwendolyn Brooks, and others, offering deeper insights into the accomplishments of the past, while bringing stark attention to the endurance and spirit of those surviving and thriving in the present. Robust back matter at the end provides valuable historical context and additional detail for those wishing to learn more

Kwame Alexander’s powerful words are brought vividly to life. Nelson’s art jumps from the page. Both a celebration of the human spirit and a challenge for acceptance, this book unequivocally celebrates the endurance and resilience of black people in the United States.

It’s a powerful book that shouts clearly “Black Lives Matter”


Links to other posts

#20BestPicturebook2019 Numbers 5-1

#20BestPicturebooks Number 10-6

#20BestPicturebooks2019 Numbers 20-16

A Proper Primary Christmas

“I wish you a hopeful Christmas
I wish you a brave New Year
All anguish pain and sadness
Leave your Heart and let your road be clear
They said there’ll be snow at Christmas
They said there’ll be peace on Earth
Hallelujah, Noel, be it Heaven or hell
The Christmas we get we deserve

Greg Lake

Tis the season to have a go at schools and collegues who do Christmas differently to you.

Every year we get the puritanical “I’m going to work them to the last minute” tweets condemning nativities, parties etc.

I just think Christmas in primary is well more than that. It’s a joyous celebration. It’s about community, sharing and giving a little back. It’s about celebrating the excitement many children feel, it’s special, it’s about traditions.

For us in East Whitby it’s dressing the tree together, infant nativities, our Carol Concert at St Mary’s (50th one this year) next to Whitby Abbey, our “Hope” assembly which brings us back to the true meaning of Christmas, our whole school conga, our fantastic Christmas fayre and Christmas dinner together.

These are not wastes of time, these are the things that bind us, they are the things that make us…us. They tie us together and make us all, children, staff, parents…a community.

School is more than lessons, and a quality of education is more than what you learn in a classroom. Christmas is a time for hope and love. It is special. It reaffirms what we’re about.

I’d recommend everyone reads this article. Christmas is definitely more…