Poster: Wolf Hollow by Lauren Wolk

As part of the Library lessons I’m going to run in September, I am asking students to complete some tasks in order to earn a reading star badge at the end of the year. I started with about 19 tasks (they don’t need to do all of them!) but as I had some time this summer I thought I’d try them all out. I was pleasantly surprised that most of them were actually fun to do, but some just did not work so got the chop! Current task count is 15.

As I have been looking at alternatives to writing regular book reviews, I had an idea of a mood board to represent the story. However, I imagine the students at the boys school where I work will think I’m bonkers if I ask them to do this! So the mood board progressed to a poster, and this is the result.

It was easy as pie and it really made me think about the setting and characters, what they looked like and the whole feel of the book.

As with most of my other creative stuff I used the brilliant (and free!)

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Book Review: Beck by Mal Peet & Meg Rosoff


4/5 Stars

An absolutely fascinating, yet harrowing coming of age story, made even more poignant as it is based on historical events that occurred in the early part of the 20th Century. Beck’s life was always going to be difficult. As a mixed race child  growing up in Liverpool, he was always going to face hardship and prejudice. After his mother’s death Beck along with other orphaned boys are sent to Canada, to a home run by the Catholic Brothers. It soon becomes clear that this was not an exciting opportunity for an improved new life in a new country but an unfathomable nightmare.

The scenes with the Catholic Brothers are difficult to read, we see just how these boys are groomed by the predatory priests.The author(s) suitably mediates these scenes for his teen-aged readers and I also was glad to be spared. He selects the details of the grooming and the hypocritical language that led up to that bath and writes of the consequences suffered 

What happens is an extraordinary tale of a young boy trying to find belonging. Beck’s voice is quiet, but his spirit is symphonic. He experiences so much in such a short space of time it makes you wonder how it is possible that these experiences have not irreparably broken him. There is physical, emotional and sexual abuse. The abuse is not in any way graphic and is written in a way suitable for a teenage audience, but the fact that is is based on true historical events makes it difficult to read.

Beck’s character is open and honest. He has no real memory of what it is like to be cared for and how to care in return, or maybe the bad memories have replaced the good ones but he refuses to give up hope that he will find somewhere to belong. 

However, once Beck runs away from his ‘adoptive parents’ the story concentrates on his relationships and the kindness of strangers he meets along the way who help in getting him where he needs to be. A riveting read.

Review: Orbiting Jupiter

orbiting jupiter

I first became aware of this book when it appeared on the Carnegie Prize Long List, it was the one that screamed ‘read me’! I couldn’t put it down, it had me hooked from the very beginning. This is now the book that I put in front of students when they ask for help choosing a book to read.  I don’t worry about the type of books they normally read and whether they’ll like it, I just tell them it’s a great book and let them get on with it! Every student without fail has enjoyed this, some have even recommended it to their friends. Success!

4/5 Stars

A story of friendship, family with a massive dose of heartache thrown in for good measure. The book is told from the POV of 12 year old Jack whose parents have just fostered who we believe is a very troubled 14 year old boy called Joseph. 

Joseph is just like every other boy his age except that he has a 3-month-old daughter called Jupiter who he has never seen. The story unfolds with Joseph slowly learning to trust his new family, finally feeling secure to share his story. Although young, he knows that he wants his daughter and will do anything to find her. 

The plot is multi-faceted, and although the story was very simply, Jack delivers the story with all the innocence of a 12 year old who doesn’t completely grasp the complexity of his new foster brother, but even so he is certain that Joseph is not the boy that many of his fellow students and some teachers have judged him to be.

The story is told in a quiet voice but this in no way detracts from its strength. Joseph says very little, and we only know his story from snippets, but one day the entire story comes out.

13 year old Joseph meets 13 year old Maddie and for the first time experiences what it is to love and be loved back without conditions. The result of this was a baby, Jupiter, who Joseph never got to see before she was fostered out and put up for adoption. Joseph’s story is heartbreaking and painful, but all through it he stays strong and focused on finding his daughter.

The ending was just heartbreaking.  I could just tell what was going to happen, and although I was right in one sense as Jack’s parents were so solid and caring, I was most definitely not prepared for the shock at the end. A great read, which deserves a wider audience, as it is definitely not just a ‘children’s’ book.