Behaviour 101…A behaviour master class.

This is my pitch for DfE behaviour funding.  After discussing with the issue @HeyMissSmith and @greg_ashman I have designed a fundamental behaviour program to support teachers in getting it right in their class. On looking further at the techniques I realised very quickly this was not for beginners. This approach is for master crraftsmen only…

These techniques are not for the faint-hearted or the weak-willed. They require a steely determination, an unwavering focus and the ability to go where others fear to tread. This is why I am classing this as a master’s level program. This is not for beginners, this is definitely not for the faint-hearted. This five step program if mastered will change your classroom and you.



Imagine the scene… a child is chatting at the back of the class, or catching Pokemon on their mobile- phone, or even worse gazing out the window at the majestic herds of wildebeast as they roam across the plains. The first step is THE STARE (TM).  Focus your gaze on the individual in question, they do not even have to be looking at you. This must be accompanied by absolute THE SILENCE (TM), if you were in the middle of an explanation stop immediately. Maintain THE STARE (TM), do not take your eyes off the individual. Other eyes in the class will follow the direction of your gaze, quadrupling the power of THE STARE (TM). The increasing atmospheric pressure in the room will ultimately step into the consciousness of the individual in question. You must without fail maintain THE STARE (TM) until the individual in question becomes aware of THE STARE (TM) and makes eye-contact at that point move onto Step 2

arms crossed


Once eye contact is made it is time for THE ARM-FOLD (TM). Without relinquishing THE STARE (TM) slowly, actually incredibly slowly (A bit like you’re in slow motion) move your arms into THE ARM-FOLD (TM) position as seen in the diagram above. You must them maintain this position for exactly 23 seconds longer than feels natural or comfortable. You are now ready for Step 3.



This is a quick move and requires precise timing to get it right. You will need either a watch or a clock in the class or on your person. if it’s a clock ideally it will be out of the eye line of THE STARE (TM). briefly do THE CLOCK LOOK (TM)* directing your gaze to your watch breaking THE STARE (TM) and THE ARM-FOLD (TM). Once you’ve carried out THE CLOCK LOOK (TM) then instantly return to THE STARE (TM) whilst repeating THE ARM-FOLD (TM). An optional ‘tut’ maybe added at this point. You are now ready for Step 4

*the purpose of THE CLOCK LOOK (TM) is to imply ‘you’ve wasted my time, now I’m going to waste yours.’



You are now ready for THE WHISPER (TM).  Once you are assured that you have the pupil’s attention through use of the techniques above you must then employ THE WHISPER (TM). This is an almost inaudible voice (it only works if you have successfully deployed Steps 1-3) you must then directly use THE WHISPER (TM) against the miscreant. What you whisper is key please go straight to Step 5.



Whilst maintaining THE STARE (TM) using THE WHISPER (TM) you must then say my specially designed behaviour management sentence “I am not upset…Im just disappointed.” This is THE DISAPPOINTMENT (TM). Please do not play around with this sentence, it has been rigorously researched adapting the sentence invalidates the training warranty.

You should now be fully in control of your class…

I am available for staff training, weddings and major festivals.



My Top 10 Picturebooks 2018 (actually 13)

I have to say picking my 10 favourite picturebooks this year has been almost impossible, I have another fifty or so bubbling under. So i just closed my eyes and saw which ones kept coming back to me. Now thinking about how to use all these in school next year. They would all be fantastic in primary classrooms. Maybe somebody would like to help me plan what to do with them?


The Visitor by Antje Dam

“Elise was frightened–of spiders, people, even trees. So she never went out, night or day.
One day a strange thing flies in through the window and lands at her feet. And then there comes a knock at the door. Elise has a visitor who will change everything.
The Visitor is a story about friendship and shyness that plays out in a mini theatre, as a child unwittingly brings light and color–literally–into a lonely person’s life.”

The visitor is a wonderfully simple picturebook focussing on the joy children bring into our lives. (this is a bit of a theme of my choices this year, it maybe because some seem to be intent on painting children as being naughty all the time) The use of colour brings a joy to the tale. It has been a book I ‘ve found myself returning too often and everytime I’ve left with a huge smile and a cosy warm glow. A magical book with a big heart.


The Dam by David Almond and Levi Pinfold

‘When a great dam was built by the Kielder Water in Northumberland, the valley below slowly filled with water. But just before this, when the villagers had been moved out, two musicians went back to the abandoned valley. They tore down the boards over the houses, stepped inside and started to play – for this would be the last time that music would be heard in this place. In this astonishing picture book that combines themes of loss, hope and music David Almond pays homage to all musicians, showing the ancient and unstoppable power of creativity’

Whilst Almonds narrative drives the story it is Pinfold’s extraordinary illustration which take this book to another place. Sweeping majestic landscapes full of music and soul allow the reader to get carried away to another place. Together they have created a little piece of magic.


Cicada by Shaun Tan

‘Cicada work in tall building.
Data entry clerk. Seventeen year.
No sick day. No mistake.
Tok Tok Tok!

Cicada works in an office, dutifully working day after day for unappreciative bosses and being bullied by his co-workers. But one day, something truly extraordinary happens . . .

A story for anyone who has ever felt unappreciated, overlooked or overworked but dreams of magic, from Australia’s most acclaimed picture book creator. This is Shaun Tan’s first author-illustrator book in five years, and his most important and moving fable since The Arrival.’

This is not a book for small children the depressing picture of day-to-day work life drudgery, the bullying (potentially racist), the grey monochrome palette. This is not an easy book, it is however a book that has left me thinking more than any other this year. Tan combines his evocative artwork with a poignant but clever little tale that may well make the reader look a little differently at the humble cicada. The tale does have a decidedly wonderful twist…seventeen years indeed.



Dreamers by Yuyi Morales

‘In 1994, Yuyi Morales left her home in Xalapa, Mexico and came to the US with her infant son. She left behind nearly everything she owned, but she didn’t come empty-handed.

She brought her strength, her work, her passion, her hopes and dreams…and her stories. Caldecott Honor artist and five-time Pura Belpré winner Yuyi Morales’s gorgeous new picture book Dreamers is about making a home in a new place. Yuyi and her son Kelly’s passage was not easy, and Yuyi spoke no English whatsoever at the time. But together, they found an unexpected, unbelievable place: the public library. There, book by book, they untangled the language of this strange new land, and learned to make their home within it.

Dreamers is a celebration of what migrantes bring with them when they leave their homes. It’s a story about family. And it’s a story to remind us that we are all dreamers, bringing our own gifts wherever we roam. Beautiful and powerful at any time but given particular urgency as the status of our own Dreamers becomes uncertain, this is a story that is both topical and timeless.’

Stunning, warm-hearted, strong and beautiful. This book is the antidote to the current political discourse on immigration. It is both true and honest and should be in every  school in my opinion. A brave wide-eyed dream of a book full of hope and love. Just what the doctor ordered.


A House That Once Was by Julie Fogliano and Lane Smith

Deep in the woods
is a house
just a house
that once was
but now isn’t
a home.

Two children come across an abandoned house deep in the woods and imagine who could have lived there. A House That Once Was is a beautifully illustrated exploration of time, imagination and the nature of home that is sure to provoke discussion. Lane’s artwork is a riot of colour and rich texture that perfectly matches the poetic text written by the New York Times-bestselling author, Julie Fogliano. This evocative, rhyming story is perfect for reading out loud.’

We all know this house, we’ve all walked past this house and wondered, wondered about the stories and memories that it holds. The book find wonder in decay and the passing of time, it creates quiet poetic atmosphere all of its own. This is a book about home and what the word home really means. Smith’s artwork gives us joys to find every time we explore the book. Just a sublime moment of quiet.


Drawn Together by Minh Le and Dan Santat

‘When a young boy visits his grandfather, their lack of a common language leads to confusion, frustration, and silence. But as they sit down to draw together, something magical happens-with a shared love of art and storytelling, the two form a bond that goes beyond words.

With spare, direct text by Minh Lê and luminous illustrations by Caldecott Medalist Dan Santat, this stirring picturebook about reaching across barriers will be cherished for years to come’

With very few words, this children’s book shows us the power of unspoken language. . The years faded between the grandfather and his grandson as they sketched and united on paper. What starts with dread slowly becomes joys as the generation gap is crossed and Grandfather and grandson cross both the age barrier and the language barrier to celebrate being with each other. (2nd book about really how brilliant and life-affirming children can be)



Mary Who Wrote Frankenstein by Linda Bailey and Julia Sarda

‘How does a story begin? Sometimes it begins with a dream, and a dreamer. Mary is one such dreamer, a little girl who learns to read by tracing the letters on the tombstone of her famous feminist mother, Mary Wollstonecraft, and whose only escape from her strict father and overbearing stepmother is through the stories she reads and imagines. Unhappy at home, she seeks independence, and at the age of sixteen runs away with poet Percy Bysshe Shelley, another dreamer. Two years later, they travel to Switzerland where they meet a famous poet, Lord Byron. On a stormy summer evening, with five young people gathered around a fire, Byron suggests a contest to see who can create the best ghost story. Mary has a waking dream about a monster come to life. A year and a half later, Mary Shelley’s terrifying tale, Frankenstein: or, the Modern Prometheus, is published — a novel that goes on to become the most enduring monster story ever and one of the most popular legends of all time.

A riveting and atmospheric picture book about the young woman who wrote one of the greatest horror novels ever written and one of the first works of science fiction, Mary Who Wrote Frankenstein is an exploration of the process of artistic inspiration that will galvanize readers and writers of all ages.’

The book handles Mary Shelley’s difficult life perfectly. Julia Sarda’s illustrations are absolutely perfect for the story, the atmospheric art with its muted colours and foreboding skies captures the mood perfectly. A great picturebook biography.


The Last Wolf by Mini Grey

‘Once upon a time, Little Red set off into the woods to catch a wolf . . .

But the woods aren’t all they seem – and are there even any wolves left? Mini Grey re-imagines the classic Little Red Riding Hood fable in an entirely new way. Can Little Red help her new friends in need and recover the wild days of the past?

This is a powerful, moving and funny picture book which will have children and adults revisiting its exquisite pages time and time again, and discussing the important message it holds.’

A modern parable about caring for our green spaces and making sure that we don’t lose them. This twist on Little Red Riding Hood which has a lot to say about the loss of all things wild. Great for starting a discussion about the wild and about how we can ensure its there for future generations. That its done with huge warmth and humour in testament to Mini Grey’s wonderful writing. Fantastic book.


Florette by Anna Walker

‘When Mae’s family moves to a new home, she wishes she could bring her garden with her. She’ll miss the apple trees, the daffodils, and chasing butterflies in the wavy grass. But there’s no room for a garden in the city. Or is there? Mae’s story, gorgeously illustrated in watercolor, is a celebration of friendship, resilience in the face of change, and the magic of the natural world.’

A beautiful, gentle story about how with a a bit of persistence we can create the world we want to live. Mae is a delightful character and the illustration bring the wonder of nature to life. Florette is an absolute delight.

Bonus book…Similar theme and equally as good…


Secret Sky Garden by Linda Sarah and Fiona Lumbers


When I Was A Child by Andy Stanton and David Litchfield

There is magic in everything.
The world is a spinning star,
No matter how old you are.

A joyous celebration of childhood and how children can bring joy and life to our world. (told you there was a theme). Playful words and sublime illustration make a memorable picturebook. Went down a storm in assembly too.


Stone for Sascha by Aaron Becker

‘A beautiful wordless epic from the Caldecott Honor-winning creator of Journey, Quest and Return.

This year’s summer holiday will be very different for a young girl and her family without Sascha, the beloved family dog, along for the ride. But a walk along the beach to gather cool, polished stones becomes a brilliant turning point in the girl’s grief. There, at the edge of a vast ocean beneath an infinite sky, she uncovers, alongside the reader, a profound and joyous truth…

In his first picture book since his bestselling Journey trilogy, Aaron Becker achieves a tremendous feat, connecting the personal loss of one child to a cycle spanning millennia – and delivering a stunningly layered tale that demands to be pored over again and again’

An epic in every sense of the word. A very personal story of loss becomes a journey through time and history. A magnificent achievement. This is your history curriculum right here.


Bonus Book…Late entry… The Rough Patch by Brian Lies

‘A breathtakingly beautiful and luminescent book about loss and grief, love and hope, and the healing power of friendship and nature, from New York Times–bestselling picture book creator Brian Lies.

Readers of Cynthia Rylant’s classic Dog Heaven, the Fan Brothers’ The Night Gardener, and anyone experiencing loss will be swept up by this poignant story.

Evan and his dog do everything together, from eating ice cream to caring for their award-winning garden, which grows big and beautiful. One day the unthinkable happens: Evan’s dog dies. Heartbroken, Evan destroys the garden and everything in it. The ground becomes overgrown with prickles and thorns, and Evan embraces the chaos.

But beauty grows in the darkest of places, and when a twisting vine turns into an immense pumpkin, Evan is drawn out of his misery and back to the county fair, where friendships—old and new—await.’

Not many books make me cry, this one had me weeping buckets. This explores the emotions we feel when we lose something we love and it does it in a brave honest way. A beautiful book.

*Text in italics is taken from book descriptions in Goodreads



TRUST…(You gotta have it!)

“Trust in me, just in me
Shut your eyes and trust in me
You can sleep safe and sound
Knowing I am around
Slip into silent slumber
Sailing on a silver mist
Slowly and surely your senses
Will cease to resist
Trust in me, just in me
Shut your eyes and trust in me”

There is one major barrier to any attempts to reduce workload in schools. It’s one tiny little word but without it we will ultimately get nowhere. That word is TRUST.

Trust is fundamental to life. If you cannot trust in anything, life becomes impossible—a constant battle against paranoia and looming disaster. Just watching half an hour of Jeremy Kyle to see the impact of a lack of trust can have. You can’t have relationships without trust, let alone good ones. Intimacy depends on it. I suspect more marriages are wrecked by lack of trust than by actual infidelity. The partner who can’t trust the other not to betray him or her will either drive them away or force them into some real or assumed act of faithlessness.

In the workplace too, trust is essential. A school without trust will be full of backstabbing, fear and paranoid suspicion. The lack of trust can be  prevalent in many schools. Twitter is rife with stories of SLTs asking for this and that, micro-managing to the nth degree. I know a school where staff are not allowed to leave the building till all their books are marked, I know another where reams of planning has to be handed in every Friday. Schools where performance management is about checking whether staff are doing their job rather than looking to help them move become better at it.

How did we get to this point? Well let me a tell you a story


Once upon a time,  a long time ago there were some people, some important people who decided that teachers were lazy and didn’t do a very good job, so they decided to check up on them all the time to make sure they weren’t shirking their responsibility and were working hard.

The important people sent people to check up on the teachers. They often came with the desire to find things schools were doing wrong rather than celebrate the things they were getting right.

This led to teachers being afraid of the people who came to check up on them. The teachers listened to what what was said about what other teachers did wrong and made sure they weren’t doing that, they listened to what was said that the other teachers were doing well and they copied that because they wanted to make the checkers happy so they wouldn’t come back as often. Sometimes the teachers were told to stop doing things they thought worked by the people in charge of their school and instead they were told to do other stuff because the checkers wanted to see that even if they didn’t.Sometimes the important people told teachers how to do the job and made them rub their tummy and pat their heads at the same time.

This went on for a long time, but the important people still weren’t happy, so they decided the teachers should only be rewarded if they  made sure all their children learnt everything they had taught them, so the people in charge of the schools  started to measure their teachers.  This made the teachers more scared, this time they were scared of the people in charge of their schools. Lots of teachers were told they weren’t good and then they disappeared, lots more didn’t like being scared and doing things that they knew didn’t help the pupils so they left as well. 

The important people threatened the people in charge of the schools and said that someone else would be put in charge if it didn’t get better. As a result this carried on for a long time. Until everybody realised that nobody wanted to be a teacher anymore.

When the important people and the checkers realised this they decided to blame the people in charge of the schools for making the teachers not want to work there anymore and for making them work too hard. They told the people in charge of schools that they had to stop all the silly things they had been doing and asked “Why on Earth have you been doing that?” … I wonder?

The real question is how do we change it. This is where that key word comes in…TRUST. To truly get it right headteachers and SLT’s are going to have to trust that Ofsted and the DfE are true to its word around workload and other issues. (High-stakes accountability is not disappearing anytime soon.) Heads are going to have to be brave and do what they know is right for their teachers, some already are doing so. The caveat to this is that it’s a lot easier to be brave when you are not sat in an Ofsted category. At all levels we are going to both have to trust each other more and equally we have to live up to that trust.

LAs and MATs are going to have TRUST their schools and  listen and change their expectations and requirements. (Hands up if you’ve ever been told to produce more stuff by either of those.)

Headteachers are equally going to have to TRUST their teachers and stop running schools as a deficit model where we trust no-one because sometimes people let us down. We need to focus on developing our teachers not measuring them. If you do this you may be surprised at what you get.

Carrot vs Stick…Fight!!! (Steps to better Performance Management)

Teachers are equally going to have to live up to that TRUST.


I’m constantly amazed when heads claim to be overworked and under constant pressure, yet fail to do the one thing most likely to ease their burdens: trust other people more. They don’t delegate, because they don’t trust people to do what they’ve been asked to do; so they have to take on every significant task themselves.  It’s not the pressure of actual work that’s driving them towards some stress-related illness, it’s their lack of trust in anyone and anything. Is it any wonder they’re close to total burnout?

With the pressures and challenges we face I appreciate it’s not easy. As a new head stepping into my school two and a half years ago creating a climate of trust has been my biggest challenge.

A key part of any heads role is to build the capacity you have in school. Without letting go and trusting you won’t move those people forward. A wise old owl of a head I worked with used to talk about ‘passing the monkey back.’ She was so right. Trust will only happen if your culture is right, expectation is vital, but also the guiding hand when it all goes a ‘bit Pete Tong’, which inevitably at some point it will.


I get that it  isn’t always easy. Trust takes time and is reciprocal in its nature. To make it happen we have to take a leap. If we want to reduce workloads, we have to look at trusting and believing our staff more. Someone has to begin the cycle of trust by an act of faith. It’s no use waiting for the other person to make the first move. They’re waiting for you. It takes a conscious act of unconditional belief in that other person’s good sense, ability, honesty or sense of commitment to set the ball rolling. Will your trust sometimes be misplaced? Of course. Life isn’t perfect and some people aren’t trustworthy. But will increasing your willingness to trust produce, on balance, a positive benefit? Will it make your life more pleasant and less stressful? I believe so. You have little to lose by trying.





The Joy of Reading (Why reading to your class should happen in every class)


Teachers need to know books really well so they know when to get lost in them, knowing the perfect places to stop and leave children waiting for more. Let the questions be theirs, leave them full of questions but without answers. There is an art to reading a class book.

After saying this I felt I needed to clarify a bit…

There are things that stick with you from school. Moments, memories, bits that change the person you are, bits that set you on a path. For me one of those was being read to everyday. Reading being given real value by a skilled teacher. A teacher  who was in completely in charge of the choice, being passionate about the book they are reading and totally showing that when they read it. This was not a book as an end of the day filler it was an important part of the learning day.

Mr Williams was that teacher, that memory, that moment. A master craftsman in the art of reading a story. He would take us to the summit and then bring us careering down the slope on the other side. He would leave us shocked and desperate to know more. The shock I felt when Boxer was carted away in ‘Animal Farm’ and the injustice of it lives with me to this day. He unlocked the understanding in us that books hold something more, that they are portals, to places and emotions and experiences and that we needed to embrace them. The act of him reading made us want to be readers. He made reading important and precious and that is something I’ve hung onto for the last 38 years. Even when I wandered through the bookless wilderness of my late-teens and early twenties. Even after the love of them had been decimated by some pretty inept teaching at A-level, (On re-reading my A-level texts it turns out they were really good) I still knew that books were worth the effort.

There is nothing quite like that feeling of having a class of children hanging on your every word. There is nothing more gratifying than the audible groan when you close the book and leave the class on tenterhooks, desperate for that next bit. It is however more than that. Reading to your class isn’t just a bit of fun it’s important.

I believe that reading to your class everyday is a vital part of what should be happening in our classrooms. I hear lots of people say they can’t afford the time. I would say you can’t afford not to make the time.

This summary from the Open University sums it up well…

Open University Summary(Research Rich Pedagogies) Reading Aloud)

The research demonstrated that reading aloud creates a sense of community, building the class repertoire of ‘books in common’ and a shared reading history. Teachers also noted it gives all children access to sophisticated themes and literary language without placing literacy demands on them. At the close of the project, reading aloud was widely viewed as a key strand of a reading for pleasure pedagogy, one which demonstrates the power and potential of literature and thus influences children’s perceptions of the pleasure to be found in reading.

Adapted from pages 94-97 Cremin, T., Mottram, M., Collins, F., Powell, S. and Safford, K. (2014) Building Communities of Engaged Readers: Reading for pleasure, London/New York: Routledge

Through reading to our class we build that sense of tribe and belonging, a shared history and experience (this is one of the massive advantages of primary teaching) When I walk into our classes and that reading history sings out, they have a common language and history regardless of background. Reading aloud allows us to challenge and allows children to access books beyond their reading years, it allows our classes to opens pupils eyes to the wonder that great books provide and it does it without us even saying that ‘reading is important.’ and is a key part in helping us develop pupil’s understanding that reading can be a pleasurable thing, a thing worth doing.

It is however more than that as author Ross Montgomery points your teaching them..

Oct 31Replying to Agreed! There’s no better model for children reading than hearing a story read aloud well – youre literally teaching them how a narrative voice works and helping them internalise it.

How you do it is key…

There is an importance of creating a flow not destroying it. I have witnessed many a great book destroyed by over-analysis and picking it apart until it breaks under the scrutiny. That’s not to say you don’t clarify meaning or explore vocabulary, there is a balance to be achieved.

My final argument is that planning it involves reading a book…Perfect.


Top 7 tips for reading aloud…

  1. Pick books you like…it shows. Trudging through a book that you really don’t like will only transmit to your class that you don’t really like it. You are the teacher the choice is yours. I get that world cups of books can be motivating I would just say make sure you’re happy with the books you’re offering as a choice. (This can be a challenge if you are handed a core reading list)
  2. Pick books that challenge. (push the envelope and take children out of their comfort zone.)
  3. Have copies of the book and other books by the author available. It’s amazing how many children will be inspired to read the book because you have.
  4. Knowing the book well helps you read it well. Knowing the story, the characters the key moments allows to share the story more effectively. Knowing the book allows you to become the controller of the story and how it plays out. It also helps you know where the sticking points might be.  I get that sometimes it’s fun to discover the joys of a book with the class, it is however not always the best way to get the best out of the time or the book.
  5. Make it important. Don’t put it as a throw-away end of the day that then disappears as you have to finish your work. Give it a time and stick to it. Make it an ingrained habit.
  6. It is a performance, reading aloud is a thing that we need to practice. It takes time to get good at it.  Start with some great short stories or some brilliant poetry build your repertoire and confidence. (Paul Jennings was always my go to. I’m still a dab  hand at Michael Rosen’s Chocolate Cake)
  7.  Go under the ‘spell.’ Allow your book to flow and get lost in it together.
  8. Sometimes break the rules and allow it to go over, or grab a moment.

I believe that reading to your class everyday is a vital part of what should be happening in our classrooms.

I hear lots of people say they can’t afford the time, personally I would say you can’t afford not to make the time.

Now …get reading!

Added bonus…Rik Mayall Reading “George’s Marvellous Medicine” …just brilliant

Rik Mayall…jackanory…Reading aloud masterclass.

Comprehension is a long and wide game.


Anybody who knows me will be completely aware of how passionate I am about the importance of reading to make a difference to the children in our schools.

Fact is children don’t get better at reading and understanding by doing lots of comprehension tests. I see lots of schools where comprehension questions are the driver and measure by which reading is judged. Thing is if we do lots of comprehension tests children get better at the techniques associated with comprehension tests. Children may well be really into them if they are getting better scores. This may also  mean that they get better reading test results what it doesn’t mean is that they are better readers.

Fact is there is no easy way to really get better at reading. The more stuff children learn and experience the more they will understand. Teaching children to be fluent readers helps, but it doesn’t mean they are readers who can understand what they read. Practicing the mechanics is a vital part of the process, as is being challenged by texts. Teachers in primary should read to their class everyday in my opinion, equally we should make space to talk about books and dig into them.  In the last couple of years there has been a push towards whole class reading instead of guided reading, some of this is around the management of a guided reading session. The key word there however is guided. Having an expert reader (the teacher) guiding and challenging readers is an incredibly powerful bit of teaching that really drives understanding. We lose this element of reading teaching at our peril.

(I’d recommend looking at Guided Reading- Layers of Meaning by Tennent et al. to look at both guided reading and what we truly should mean by the word comprehension)

The sad fact however is regardless of how much we try to improve pupil understanding without looking at how our curriculum offer builds and develops children’s knowledge and vocabulary we will inevitably fail. Sadly in many schools the starting point is a deficit model. Our curriculum has to address that deficit. A narrowed curriculum may well keep the wolves from the door, but the potential damage in the long-term for those young people could be immense. That’s why really looking at the job our curriculum does is vital. If we want children to understand and know more, then we have to look at our curriculum offer from the moment they enter our school, both in terms of the stuff we teach and ensure children learn and the experiences it offers. This is the thing that will fill the gaps. Our curriculum needs to fill the gaps not create bigger chasms. History/Geography/RE/ Science/ Art / Music all need to be part of that curiculum. Discussions around your curriculum, what you are are teaching and why? and how it builds coherently for your pupils will truly make the difference.

Recht and Leslie “The Baseball Study” 1988

Children who’ve never been to a city, explored a wood, or stood on a beach  will never truly understand the scale or the feel of it. If we want writers, or readers then these experiences many of us take for granted can’t be an afterthought. Experiences help children develop language and meaning. Asking children to write without the material to write about, will only get the results you expect. Read Morpurgo’s ‘Giants necklace’ after a morning on a stormy beach and the whole story becomes a much more frightening proposition. We just have to make sure the teaching around these experiences embrace the opportunities they provide. Planning how we make the most of them and the learning we want from them is key

Lost words

Work inspired by the Lost Words by Robert McFarlane and Jackie Morris. Started in the woods and on the the beach this made the language come alive.

If we get these things right we’ll find the tests are just that and children will do well in them but more importantly they will be more prepared to embrace wider learning opportunities. They may even enjoy it!

10 picture books for Year 1. Actually there’s 12 but who’s counting?

box 2

As I’m coming to the end of my lists (1 to go) stepping back has made me realise that I have missed out so many brilliant books, authors and illustrators. I ended up with 12 here because I couldn’t leave out some of them. There are many others doing brilliant work, go and explore, find the books which work for you.

Hope the lists have started you looking.

Independent bookshops are amazing I find lots of the quirky and the interesting, hidden on their shelves,

I’m lucky I’ve got a few on my doorstep. Drake bookshop in Stockton, Book Corner in Saltburn, Whitby books, Guisborough books and White Rose books in Thirsk all are great helpful and knowledgeable. Go find your local bookshop… you never know what you will find.

1 Wild by Emily Hughes

“You cannot tame something so happily wild.”

In this beautiful picture book by Emily Hughes, we meet a little girl who has known nothing but nature from birth—she was taught to talk by birds, to eat by bears, and to play by foxes. She is unashamedly, irrefutably, irrepressibly wild. That is, until she is snared by some very strange animals that look oddly like her, but they don’t talk right, eat right, or play correctly.
Stunning, wildly vivid visuals jump off the page.  Inventive and quirky with the most expressive lead character.  Just fabulous.

2)  On Sudden Hill by Linda Sarah and Benji Davies

Two best friends enjoy playing games of their imaginations on a big hill using cardboard boxes; life is great. When another boy brings his box and joins in on the fun, there’s a rift in the original friendship.

A wonderful book about the complexities of friendship and how kindness can help us overcome the issues.

If you’ve not come across illustrator Benji Davies you are in for a real treat

Benji Bonus

3) Pattan’s Pumpkin by Chitra Soundar and Frane Lessac

When Pattan finds a yellow-flower vine wilting in his valley, he replants and cares for it, watching as a pumpkin appears and grows taller than the goats, taller than the elephants, as tall as the very mountains. When a terrible storm rages across the valley, Pattan wonders if perhaps his pumpkin can save the seeds and grains and saplings, the goats and birds and bison, and protect them all as the storm clouds burst and the waters rise.

Frane Lessac’s brilliantly vibrant artwork is a feast for the eyes, while Chitra Soundar’s thoughtful retelling is a fascinating example of the kinds of stories told the world over — and the differences that make each version unique.

4) Little Red Bethan Woolvin

Little Red Riding Hood meets a wolf on her way through the woods to visit her sick grandmother. The wolf is hungry, and Red Riding Hood looks tasty, so he hatches a dastardly plan, gobbles up Grandma and lies in wait. So far, so familiar. But this Little Red Riding Hood is not easily fooled, and this big bad wolf better watch his back. In this defiant interpretation of the traditional tale, the cheeky, brave little girl seizes control of her own story (and the wolf gets rather more than he bargained for).

Minimal stylised artwork and retellings with a twist make these playful versions perfect.

Bethan Bonus

5) Where the Wild Things Are by Maurice Sendak

One night Max puts on his wolf suit and makes mischief of one kind and another, so his mother calls him ‘Wild Thing’ and sends him to bed without his supper. That night a forest begins to grow in Max’s room and an ocean rushes by with a boat to take Max to the place where the wild things are. Max tames the wild things and crowns himself as their king, and then the wild rumpus begins. But when Max has sent the monsters to bed, and everything is quiet, he starts to feel lonely and realises it is time to sail home to the place where someone loves him best of all.

A classic what more needs to be said. We are all a little bit Max.

6) Lion and The Mouse by Jerry Pinkney

Brilliant wordless adaptation of one of Aesop’s most beloved fables, an unlikely pair learn that no act of kindness is ever wasted. After a ferocious lion spares a cowering mouse that he’d planned to eat, the mouse later comes to his rescue, freeing him from a poacher’s trap.

Pinkney’s vivid depictions of the landscape of the African Serengeti and expressively drawn characters, make this a truly special retelling, and his stunning pictures speak volumes.

7) Stanleys Stick by John Hegley and Neal Layton

This book is about a stick owned by a boy called Stanley. But it is more than a stick because Stanley can make it into whatever he wants it to be through the power of imagination.

Playful words by Hegley are complimented by Layton’s simple, colourful illustrations which include just the subtlest pieces of collage to bring places like Blackpool beach to life.

8) Orion and the Dark by Emma Yarlett

The best way to conquer your fear is to face it.
This is exactly what Orion does. Orion is afraid of many things, his greatest fear is the Dark. One night Orion gets fed up with being afraid and he demands the Dark leave. The Dark and Orion meet and learn more about each other. Together The Dark and Orion explore the scary parts of the dark and see that there is fun to be had, and The Dark is not so scary.

Playful formatting make it a visual wonder. Loads of challenging vocab in there helps children put words to fears.

This story teaches a great lesson about how to get over our fears. How to address them and how to make them our strengths instead. this book is a great book for anyone with fears, not just of the dark.

9) Is There a Dog in This Book? by Viviane Schwartz

Equal time for canines! Three cats —Tiny, Moonpie, and André — think there might be a dog in this book, but it’s up to the reader to help them find out.

Can cats and dogs share the same turf? Revisit the age-old dilemma with a hide-and-seek romp among furry friends.

Brimming with humor and featuring Viviane Schwarz’s exuberant artwork, here is a lively interactive exploration of the surprising joys of unlikely friendships.

Also recommended…

10) LOTS, The Diversity of Life on Earth by Nicola Davies and Emily Sutton

Lots, a beautifully illustrated introduction to the concept of biodiversity for younger readers.

There are living things everywhere: the more we look, the more we find. There are creatures on the tops of the tallest jungle trees, at the bottom of the coldest oceans, even under the feathers of birds and in boiling volcanic pools. So how many different kinds are there? One, two, three … lots!

With beautiful words from Nicola Davies and amazing detailed  illustrations by Emily Sutton, this book is certain to enchant and inspire your class. (they’ll fight over it if you’re not careful)

11) Shh! We Have A Plan by Chris Haughton

What looks to be four friends or four family members creep through the woods at night in search of prey. Three of them have nets–and a plan–to capture a bird. They fail, time and time again, while the smallest member of the party attracts a flock of birds with his friendliness, kindness, and offer of food. Of course, the others still don’t learn from his example.

Funny and profound, the books helps explore the importance of every voice, even the smallest.

12) Grumpy Frog by Ed Vere.

Grumpy Frog is not grumpy. He loves green, and he loves to hop, and he loves winning. But what happens when Grumpy Frog doesn’t win, or encounters – horror of horrors – a Pink Rabbit?
Join Grumpy Frog as he learns about compromise and tolerance, friendship and the power of saying sorry.
A hilarious book with a twist in the tail about getting – and getting rid of – the grump

Wildly funny, anarchic and playful. Grumpy frog does that rare thing and hiding serious messages beneath the humour. It’s a corking assembly book too.

Links to other year-group lists…

Year 2

10 picturebooks for year 2 – Leaps of Imagination #picturebookpage

Year 3

Picturebooks – Choosing is tricky… 10 Picturebooks for Year 3. #picturebookpage

Year 4

Picturebooks – more than just a pretty picture? -10 picturebooks for Year 4 #picturebookpage

Year 5

Find the space to talk… 10 picturebooks for Year 5 #picturebookpage

Year 6

Why Picturebooks? -10 picturebooks forYear 6 #picturebookpage

10 picturebooks for year 2 – Leaps of Imagination #picturebookpage


Picturebooks  as Martin Galway, English teaching and learning adviser with Herts for Learning, says: they provide a swift democracy, a shared world and experience that can mitigate and compensate for varying levels of experience of the world. They can provide a unique common starting point that levels the playing field. The best picture books give us that wonderful opportunity to talk, explore and interpret.

This set of 10 for Year 2 does just that I think. Hope its useful.

1) The Mystery of the Golden Wonderflower by Benjamin Flouw

Lavish and luscious. This book could be the start point for an amazing journey into learning about nature, plants and the environment.

Fox is an avid botanist. He loves all flowers and trees! One evening, whilst flicking through his books, he discovers the Golden Wonderflower. But little is known about this precious plant…And so, Fox embarks on an exciting journey on the search of this curiosity. Join him on an adventure through forests, meadows and the mountains. Delight in the wonders that lie in nature s remote corners. Lovers of the great outdoors will delight in a story that sends a powerful message about the environment and our wild, natural world.

The rich illustrations catch the tranquility of the unspoiled, depict the plants that Fox finds on his way and take the young reader on an exciting adventure into the wild.


2) Beegu by Alexis Deacon

Beegu’s  is stranded on Earth. Now she is lost and wandering. Waiting for a rescue signal from her mother, she fails to make friends with the strange creatures she encounters. Rabbits don’t seem to understand her; windblown leaves won’t stay still to listen. But at last, on a school playground, Beegu discovers a group of fantastic companions who are happy to let her join their games . . . until a grownup creature spoils the fun.

A wonderful, emotional book that resonates with love and hope but isnt afraid to tell some hard truths.

3) The Secret Sky Garden by Linda Sarah and Fiona Lumbers

A delightful book about how one person can make a difference to their world and the importance of sharing that.

Funni loves the old, disused car park, and spends a lot of time there flying her kite and playing her recorder. But something is missing. Definitely. So Funni decides to create a garden in the neglected space and after weeks of careful nurture, her garden in the sky takes shape. One day, a little boy, Zoo, spots the square of colour amongst the grey from an incoming flight, and decides to try to find it. And slowly, not only do Funni’s flowers bloom, but a very special friendship blossoms too. 

Bonus book Footpath Flowers



4) That Rabbit Belongs to Emily Brown by Cressida Cowell and Neal Layton

This is a very personal choice as it’s the book I’ve read with my son more than any other. It is just a fantastically joyous bit of storytelling. It does everything a great picturebook should and does it with a swagger. A story about valuing things and really caring about them.

Emily Brown’s rabbit, Stanley, is NOT FOR SALE.

Not even to her Most Royal Highness Queen Gloriana the Third.

Not even for all the toys Emily Brown could ever desire.

So when naughty Queen Gloriana steals “Bunnywunny” away, Emily Brown sets out to get him back. Along the way, she shows the queen how to love a special toy of her very own.


5) Traction Man is Here by Mini Grey

Mini Grey’s story in words and pictures is an irresistible invitation to the private world of a child’s play. Fantastic Comic-art, and brilliant use of humour and pathos combine to make this book brilliant fun, your class will take traction man on some brilliant further adventures.

Traction Man—wearing combat boots, battle pants, and his warfare shirt—comes in a box, but very quickly finds the way into the imagination of his lucky boy owner. This superhero searches for the Lost Wreck of the Sieve as the boy makes a game of doing the dishes, and later in the bathtub, he conquers the Mysterious Toes that are stealing his pet, the brave little Scrubbing Brush. These are just a few of the action-packed adventures played out by the boy and his new toy that may not be able to leap tall buildings in a single bound, but can vanquish all manner of villains lurking around the house. The biggest challenge however arrives in the form of Nan’s homemade outfit.

6) Journey by Aaron Becker.

If this books doesn’t get your class writing then nothing will.

A lonely girl draws a magic door on her bedroom wall and through it escapes into a world where wonder, adventure, and danger abound. Red marker in hand, she creates a boat, a balloon, and a flying carpet that carry her on a spectacular journey toward an uncertain destiny. When she is captured by a sinister emperor, only an act of tremendous courage and kindness can set her free. Can it also lead her home and to her heart’s desire? With supple line, luminous color, and nimble flights of fancy, author-illustrator Aaron Becker launches an ordinary child on an extraordinary journey toward her greatest and most exciting adventure of all. A vibrant, hair-raising journey through the power of imagination

Becker Bonus


7) At Our House by Isabel Minhos Martins and Madelena Matoso

Wonderfully vibrant,  colourful art  could lead to all-sorts of maths based fun. What is it at your house? Or even better What is in your class?

A truly fab Maths based picturebook…Counting is fun, but it’s a lot more fun when you can count things like fingers, tongues, bones and freckles. At Our House is a charming adventure through the eyes of one household and the bodies that are in it. Vibrantly illustrated, each page counts up the number of toes and teeth, and even length of intestines children might find in their own family, in a hilarious (and gross!) story that children will love. 

8) Moth (An Evolution Story) by Isabel   Thomas and Daniel Egneus

A truly fantastic book that would work from Year 1 all the way to Year 6.THis is just about the perfect combination of science and story-telling.

Powerful and visually spectacular, Moth is the remarkable evolution story that captures the struggle of animal survival against the background of an evolving human world in a unique and atmospheric introduction to Darwin’s theory of Natural Selection.

Against a lush backdrop of lichen-covered trees, the peppered moth lies hidden. Until the world begins to change…Along come people with their magnificent machines which stain the land with soot. In a beautiful landscape changed by humans how will one little moth survive?

A clever picture book text about the extraordinary way in which animals have evolved, intertwined with the complication of human intervention. 

Here is the trailer…


9) Not Now Bernard by David Mckee

The perfect book for open-ended discussion. Hilarious on the first take, deeply sad by the tenth.

Bernard’s got a problem because he’s found a monster in the back garden but his parents are too preoccupied to notice him let alone heed his warnings. If he’s eaten, will they even notice? Beautifully written and illustrated the levels within the story allow for deep discussion. I find it incredibly sad, as an adult, to read. With his dad barely there (he’s only in two parts) and his mum only offering practical support – making him dinner, making him go to bed – Bernard is pretty much on his own, nobody eats with him and he’s expected to take himself to bed. A true classic.

10) Last Stop on Market Street by Matt De La Pena and Christian Robinson

Fantastic, gentle book that explores community and diversity through the eyes of a child. Wonderful as a starting pont for exploring your communities and opening discussion about them.

Every Sunday after church, CJ and his grandma ride the bus across town. But today, CJ wonders why they don’t own a car like his friend Colby. Why doesn’t he have an iPod like the boys on the bus? How come they always have to get off in the dirty part of town? Each question is met with an encouraging answer from grandma, who helps him see the beauty—and fun—in their routine and the world around them.
This energetic ride through a bustling city highlights the wonderful perspective only grandparent and grandchild can share, and comes to life through Matt de la Pena’s vibrant text and Christian Robinson’s radiant illustrations.

Deservedly won lots of plaudits including the 2016 Newberry Medal





Picturebooks – Choosing is tricky… 10 Picturebooks for Year 3. #picturebookpage


No rant on this one…

Just an explanation. To choose the books I have looked to vary theme, content and style, I have tried to include aspects of diversity in the text choices, though I will be the first to admit this is not an area I have enormous knowledge about, there are others such as @rebeccaLucas  and @mat_at_brookes who are much more knowledgeable than me. i’d also recommend reading the Reflecting Realities report from the CLPE.

You may feel the books would work better in other year groups, that is fine.  On reviewing the lists I would say most books in 5/6 are interchangeable between year groups and I would say the same for 3/4. Hope it helps …Simon

1) Voices In The Park by Anthony Browne

A book that could actually be used in any year group. Four different voices tell their own versions of the same walk in the park. The radically different perspectives give a fascinating depth to this simple story which explores many of the author’s key themes, such as alienation, friendship and the bizarre amid the mundane. Wonderfully playful  art expands the viewpoints and voices. Utter classic.

2) The Day the War Came by Nicola Davies and Rebecca Cobb

A moving, poetic narrative and child-friendly illustrations follow the heartbreaking, ultimately hopeful journey of a little girl who is forced to become a refugee.

“The day war came there were flowers on the windowsill and my father sang my baby brother back to sleep.”

Imagine if, on an ordinary day, after a morning of studying tadpoles and drawing birds at school, war came to your town and turned it to rubble. Imagine if you lost everything and everyone, and you had to make a dangerous journey all alone. Imagine that there was no welcome at the end, and no room for you to even take a seat at school. And then a child, just like you, gave you something ordinary but so very, very precious. In lyrical, deeply affecting language, Nicola Davies’s text combines with Rebecca Cobb’s expressive illustrations to evoke the experience of a child who sees war take away all that she knows. Powerful and moving.

3 ) After the Fall by Dan Santat

Everyone knows that when Humpty Dumpty sat on a wall, Humpty Dumpty had a great fall. But what happened after?

Caldecott Medalist Dan Santat’s poignant tale follows Humpty Dumpty, an avid bird watcher whose favorite place to be is high up on the city wall—that is, until after his famous fall. Now terrified of heights, Humpty can longer do many of the things he loves most.

Will he summon the courage to face his fear?

After the Fall (How Humpty Dumpty Got Back Up Again) is a masterful picture book that will remind readers of all ages that Life begins when you get back up.

4) Pandora by Victoria Turnbull

Pandora lives alone, in a world of broken things. A world that is is transformed by care and love. Epic widescrean art envelops the reader, firstly depicting the loneliness  of the main character and ultimately the love.

It is a wonderfully illustrated celebration of connection and renewal.

5) The Rythmn of the Rain by Grahame Barker Smith

What at first appears to be an amazingly illustrated version of the Water cycle, is actually so much more and ultimately connects us with the cyclical mature of life. Just stunning. You could spend hours lost in the illustrations.

6) Street beneath my Feet by Charlotte Guillian and Yuval Zommer

This double-sided foldout book takes you on a fascinating journey deep underground. One side of the foldout shows the ground beneath the city, whilst the other side of the foldout shows the ground beneath the countryside. The scenes in the book, by the widely acclaimed illustrator Yuval Zommer, are continuous, so contrasting underground sections, from tunnels and pipes to burrowing creatures, layers of rock to the planet’s molten core, run seamlessly into the next. Mixing urban and rural settings, as well as Geology, Archaeology and Natural History, The Street Beneath My Feet offers children the opportunity to explore their world in a detailed learning experience. And its fold-out,  style, which extends to 2.5 metres in length, is great fun to spread out on the floor and really get involved! It’s a real WOW! book.

Coming soon…


7) Jumanji Chris Van Allsburg

Left on their own for an afternoon, two bored and restless children find more excitement than they bargained for in a mysterious and mystical jungle-adventure board game. Amazing illustrations that withsatnd countless explorations

“Mr. Van Allsburg’s illustrations have a beautiful simplicity of de-sign, balance, texture, and a subtle intelligence beyond the call of illustration.”

Bonus books...I would also add Zathura if your doing somethig Space-based (just as good) or at Christmas The Polar Express is hard to top.


8) Tell me A Dragon by Jackie Morris

Everyone has their very own dragon, and this book describes many different varieties of the beast, showing in words and stunning pictures exactly why their owners find them so entrancing. If this doesn’t get your children writing and creating then nothing will. Sublime.

9) I’ll Take You To Mrs Cole! by Nigel Gray and Michael Foreman

Whenever he is naughty, a young boy’s mother threatens him with Mrs Cole, who appears to be a disreputable character living nearby in total chaos. One day he runs away from home and finds himself outside Mrs Cole’s house. She invites him in and he discovers that Mrs Cole’s noisy, kindly house is welcoming and warm and far from being frightening. A brilliant book about prejudice  and the demons we create in our heads.

Tip…Cover up the front cover as it ruins the suspense that the playful text and art build up.

10) Henry’s Freedom Box by Ellen Levine and Kadir Nelson

A stirring, dramatic story of a slave who mails himself to freedom by a Jane Addams Peace Award-winning author and a Coretta Scott King Award-winning artist.

Henry Brown doesn’t know how old he is. Nobody keeps records of slaves’ birthdays. All the time he dreams about freedom, but that dream seems farther away than ever when he is torn from his family and put to work in a warehouse. Henry grows up and marries, but he is again devastated when his family is sold at the slave market. Then one day, as he lifts a crate at the warehouse, he knows exactly what he must do: He will mail himself to the North. After an arduous journey in the crate, Henry finally has a birthday — his first day of freedom.

Challenging for Year 3 but a wonderfully told, powerful story.

Year 4…

Picturebooks – more than just a pretty picture? -10 picturebooks for Year 4 #picturebookpage

Year 5…

Find the space to talk… 10 picturebooks for Year 5 #picturebookpage

Year 6…

Why Picturebooks? -10 picturebooks forYear 6 #picturebookpage


Picturebooks – more than just a pretty picture? -10 picturebooks for Year 4 #picturebookpage


‘ You cannot write for children… They’re much too complicated. You can only write books that are of interest to them.’

‘I have to accept my role. I will never kill myself like Vincent Van Gogh. Nor will I paint beautiful water lilies like Monet. I can’t do that. I’m in the idiot role of being a kiddie book person.’


‘There’s so much more to a book than just the reading.’

I don’t write for children. I write and someone says it’s for children.’

Maurice Sendak.
OK I admit I’m a bit of a stuck record, but I really do love picture books.

Wonderful, amazing, creative, challenging, funny, heart-breaking, tragic, unbelievable,  fabulous picture books. They are not just a vital stepping stone into higher level reading. They are the missing link. They can develop in all Learners the ability to explore, notice, question, predict, summarise, theorise and analyse. Mary Roche writes wonderfully on this in her book ‘Developing Children’s Critical Thinking through Picturebooks’

Picture book are often dismissed as being for younger children. They’re not! They are written off as easy. They’re not! There are some stunning picture books out there. Many offer us more than first appears. Many require us to bring in our own cultural understanding to truly make meaning of them.  People who dismiss them more often than not haven’t put the time in to understand and explore them.

So the aim of this post is to show  why I think picture books are blummin’ ace. The chosen books for Year 4 do all these things and more. Don’t miss a trick.

  1. They elicit emotion. (often in my case tears)
  2. They confuse and challenge
  3. They broach difficult issues in wonderful ways
  4. They open doors to other cultures.
  5. They provide leaps of imagination
  6. They are wild and playful
  7. They are quiet and thoughtful
  8. They require the reader to fill in the gaps



1 Arthur and the Golden Rope by Joe Todd Stanton

Arthur is not your typical hero. Norse myths, and wild adventure collide in this top-notch picturebook. So much to discover and explore. A fantastic fantastical story coupled with vivid detailed art gives us a book to savour. I blogged about how you might use it here.Digging Deeper… Reading with Picturebooks


Bonus book- Marcy and the Riddle of the Sphinx If  you’re studying the Egyptians this would be a great place to start. Another cracking book by Joe Todd Stanton

2 Flotsam by David Weisner

“A bright, science-minded boy goes to the beach equipped to collect and examine flotsam–anything floating that has been washed ashore. Bottles, lost toys, small objects of every description are among his usual finds. But there’s no way he could have prepared for one particular discovery: a barnacle-encrusted underwater camera, with its own secrets to share . . . and to keep.”

Wiesner’s amazing picturebook reveals the magical possibilities of ordinary things. In this Caldecott Medal winner, a day at the beach is the springboard into a wildly imaginative exploration of the mysteries of the deep, and of the qualities that enable us to witness these wonders and delight in them. An amazing book for leaping into art, science and poetry.

3 The Whale by Ethan and Vita Murrow

The Murrows’ create  a spectacular almost wordless (There are some rather great newspaper page snippets.) adventure is brought to life with stunning graphite drawings that convey the drama and haunting beauty of the ocean and capture the majesty of the awe-inspiring whale.  We get a story of wonder that comes full circle as we realise the children have seen the same whale their grandparents did.

4 Hidden Figures by Margot Lee Shetterly and Laura Freeman

“Dorothy Vaughan, Mary Jackson, Katherine Johnson, and Christine Darden were good at math…really good.”

In this beautifully illustrated picture book, we explore the story of four female African-American mathematicians at NASA, known as “colored computers,” and how they overcame gender and racial barriers to succeed in a highly challenging STEM-based career. Shetterly does a brilliant job of condensing her novel without losing any of the impact of the story. It would make a great starting point to explore Space exploration  in the context of modern history.

5 Mirror by Jeannie Baker

An innovative, two-in-one picture book follows a parallel day in the life of two families: one in a Western city and one in a North African village.

Somewhere in Sydney, Australia, a boy and his family wake up, eat breakfast, and head out for a busy day of shopping. Meanwhile, in a small village in Morocco, a boy and his family go through their own morning routines and set out to a bustling market. In this ingenious, wordless picture book, readers are invited to compare, page by page, the activities and surroundings of children in two different cultures. Their lives may at first seem quite un-alike, but a closer look reveals that there are many things, some unexpected, that connect them as well. Designed to be read side by side — one from the left and the other from the right —these intriguing stories are told entirely through richly detailed collage illustrations.

6 Zoo by Anthony Browne

A book that definitely divides opinions, but an amazing thought-provoking book none-the-less. Zoo is sublimely illustrated and all the more powerful for it.  Do I like the book, probably not. Do I think it should be read and talked about, definitely yes.

7 Leon and the place between by Angela McAllister and Grahame Barker Smith

Leon and his brothers and sister go to a magic show, but this is no ordinary show and Abdul Kazam is no ordinary magician. Take a journey right through the die-cut pages of this book into the Place Between, where magic becomes truly real. Angela McAllister has conjured a spellbinding story that unfolds in the mysterious world of Grahame Baker-Smith’s stunning illustrations. Truly a stunning book.

8 Greenling by Levi Pinfold

“What is this growing on Barleycorn land, and is it intended for Barleycorn hands?”

Mr. and Mrs. Barleycorn live a quiet life, alone and forgotten by the world. But something is growing on Barleycorn land, something that Mr. Barleycorn decides it would be best to take. And with this, for better or worse, he brings the outside…inside.

Mr. Barleycorn picks a green baby growing on his land, unleashing the incredible power of nature. When zucchinis flower in the kitchen and carrots sprout out of their television, Mr. Barleycorn’s wife insists that the Greenling has to go. But the bounty and beauty of nature have a strange power — the power to bring a whole community together. Pinfold’s stunning art creates an other-timely place, drawing echoes of depression era America. In this place he weaves a tale where nature heals all.

9 Wolves by Emily Gravett

Subversive and more than a little dark. Gravett creates an almost perfect picture book. A non-fiction text leads us through the story while the pictures carry the narrative and let us inside the story. Very much as  we did in Rosie’s Walk, we  always know more than the protagonist. This both creates tension and humour. The way the readers are played with at the end of the book just shows an author at the top of their creative game.


10 Mrs Noah’s Pockets by Jackie Morris and James Mayhew

“At last all were gathered inside the ark. It heaved with animals, large and small. Mrs Noah wore a brand-new coat, with a hood and a cape – and very deep pockets. Lots of pockets.”

When Mr Noah builds the ark, he makes two lists – one for all the animals who will come on board and one for those troublesome creatures he will leave behind. Meanwhile, Mrs Noah gets out her sewing machine and makes a coat with very deep pockets. Lots of pockets. Mayhew’s stunning illustrations compliment a story of mild subversion and inner strength. Mrs Noah is my new hero.

Year 3 coming soon…

see also…

10 picturebooks for Year 5

10 picturebooks for Year 6


Find the space to talk… 10 picturebooks for Year 5 #picturebookpage

box 2

Using Picturebooks only works if you give children the room to talk and discuss. With that in mind I have some key questions.

KEY QUESTION 1 What knowledge would help the children explore the book better?

KEY QUESTION 2 Do you give children room to ask questions about what they are reading?

KEY QUESTION 3 Do you know the book well enough to dig deeper into it with the children?

Having  a range of techniques to dig in is really helpful as well… Here are a couple I use regularly. I’ll add some more to the posts for other year groups.

1)  Chambers ‘Tell me Grid’ is really useful for the initial exploration into a picture but also they are great for revisiting later in the process.



2) Freeze-framing and thought-tracking. Simple but highly effective technique in exploring the difference between thought and word.


Anyway here are the books…

10 brilliant picturebooks for Year 5


1 The Journey by Francesca Sanna

Just one of the most brilliant picturebooks. It completely earns all the plaudits it has recieved. The book carries haunting echoes of the current refugee crisis, it explores the unimaginable decisions made as a family leave their home and everything they know to escape the turmoil and tragedy brought by war. This book will stay with you long after the last page is turned. I have previously blogged on this one

Bookblog No4 The Journey by Francesca Sanna

There is also a great teaching pack from Amnesty UK exploring_the_journey_together

2 Wolves in the Walls by Neil Gaiman and Dave McKean

In turns surreal, scary, bizarre and brilliant. Gaiman and McKean are a dream team here.  It is in turns exhuberant, wild, intense and striking. A great book for exploring fears and the idea that grown-ups don’t listen to children.

3 Stone for Sascha by Aaron Becker

This year’s summer vacation will be very different for a young girl and her family without Sascha, the beloved family dog, along for the ride. But a wistful walk along the beach to gather cool, polished stones becomes a brilliant turning point in the girl’s grief. There, at the edge of a vast ocean beneath an infinite sky, she uncovers, alongside the reader, a profound and joyous truth. Aaron Becker achieves a tremendous feat, connecting the private, personal loss of one child to a cycle spanning millennia — and delivering a stunningly layered tale that demands to be pored over again and again.

4 The River by Allesandro Sanna

Surprising, original, and gorgeous, The River is a book about the seasons and the different kinds of experiences and stories that each season brings. Almost entirely wordless, The River presents each of the four seasons as its own chapter and story. A few sentences at the start of each chapter set the stage and provide clues for following each story. Beginning in autumn and ending in summer, The River is about our connection to place, as well as about the connections between geography, setting, and the stories we tell. The River is also about the flow of time, which flows like the river, and carries us. Just profound and beautiful. It is a stunner.

5 Shackletons Journey by William Grill

William Grill brings us a detailed visual narrative of Shackleton’s epic journey to Antarctica. Grill  cataloges of every  detail of the expedition and in doing so creates a truly human story.. He manages to evoke the atmosphere and intrepid excitement that would have surrounded the expedition with his impeccably researched, detailed and atmospheric drawings. This is an exciting, book which provides a true experience and reminds us that it is the people, not the journey, that truly matter.

We did some amazing work with this book this year. This letter of application gave us a different angle and led to work about the suffragette movement as well.


6 How to Live Forever by Colin Thompson

Thoughful and thought-provoking at the same time. Deliciously complex artwork that begs to be explored again and again, full of puns and references, it’s devine. The story is set in a fantastical library  and a quest fro the missing, mystical  book ‘How to live Forever’  it explores what we do if we were given the chance to live forever.

The artwork is so good we have it on our library door.

7 Way Home by Libby Hathorn and Gregory Rodgers

Exploring the idea of homeless,  Way Home provides a gritty evocation of life on the streets, darkly realistic visuals, in which the lights of cars or the glitter of showroom windows serve only to emphasize the shadows and grime of the pathways.  In the centre of this is a tale of care as Shane and his kitten must traverse the terrifying city. Tucking the cat inside his jacket, he maneuvers past a variety of dangers-bullies, traffic, a snarling dog-until they at last reach his home, itself no more than a corner in another alley.   A harsh, stark but redemptive picturebook.

8 House held up by Trees by Ted Kooser and Jon Klassen

A story that is just about the passing of time and how ultimately nature will reclaim all as a house is abandoned and time does its thing.  Kooser’s poetic story is accompanied by quiet, wistfully beautiful illustrations from Jon Klassen. This is a thoughtful and sophisticated picture book about the passage of time and the power of nature. This led to us looking at the reality of nature reclaiming


Would also add a bonus book that would work brilliantly alongside it…


A House that Once Was by Julie Fogliano and Lane Smith that beautifully explores memories that places hold.

9 Radiant Child (The story of Young Artist Jean Michel Basquiat) by Javaka Steptoe

Stunning, stylish picturebook biography of Jean Michel Basquiat. It doesn’t shy away from the troubled story but eequally it celebrates the creativity and bravery at the core of it. Javaka Steptoe’s vivid text and bold artwork echoing Basquiat’s own introduce young readers to the powerful message that art doesn’t always have to be neat or clean–and definitely not inside the lines–to be beautiful. Just a stunning book.

The Arrival by Shaun Tan

No picturebook would be complete or believable if this book were not part of it. The Arrival is a stunning achievement. Completely wordless but weaving a complex narrative about migration through its stunning artwork. It is an absolute masterpiece.


I know there are lots of other books people would include please share them here or on twitter I’d love to hear your suggestions.