What I read | May and June 2022

 A pictorial look, with reviews, at all the books I read, shared and reviewed in May and June 2022.

The Silence of the Girls by Pat Barker. Shortlisted for the Women's Prize for Fiction in 2019, this is a retelling of The Iliad, told from the perspective of one woman, a Trojan Queen named Briseis, who is captured by the Greeks and kept as a slave in their military camp by the sea, as they continue their battle against the Trojans. It is honest and brutal at times, as it would have been, but it is a long time since it have not been able to put down a book until it is finished. And this story grabs your attention until the last page. Brilliant.  Published by @penguinrandomhouse.  Find out more here - https://www.penguin.co.uk/books/308/308434/the-silence-of-the-girls/9780241983201.html

Alte Zachen* by Ziggy Hanaor and Benjamin Phillips (* old things). Benji is off out shopping for Friday night dinner ingredients with his Bubbe Rosa (his grandma), in Brooklyn and Manhattan. As we follow them in the shops, streets, trains and taxis, we slowly appreciate and understand which Bubbe Rosa is so grumpy and rude. She's very old and has seen a lot and been through a lot. A short graphic novel, this beautiful story reveals its secrets slowly through the pages, as we find out what happened to Rosa, and how she came to be in New York. A "story of Jewish Identity, of generational divides, of the surmountability of difference and of a restless city and its inhabitants. Published by @cicada. Find out more here - https://www.cicadabooks.co.uk/books/p/alte-zachen-old-things

The Miracle of Mindfulness by Thich Nhat Hanh. The definitive guide to mindfulness from the Novel Prize nominee Thich Nhat Hanh. This is a lovely new edition published as part of a new series of Rider Classics. He shares practical exercises and anecdotes to help us arrive at greater self-understanding and peacefulness. I like this quote from James afrost who travelled to America with Thich Nhat Hanh in 1978 to spread the message of peace during the Vietnam war..."breathing. It comes to many as astonishing news that something as simple as attention to breathing has a central part to play in meditation and prayer. It is like a mystery novelist's idea of hiding the diamonds in the goldfish bowl : too obvious to notice." Stop for a minute, notice your breath go in and out, and see how it works, it really does. Published by @penguinrandomhouse. Find out more here - https://www.penguin.co.uk/books/102/1024291/the-miracle-of-mindfulness/9781846046407.html

The Iliad and the Odyssey retold and illustrated by Marcia Williams. Ancient stories, retold through time, written down by Homer a long time ago, and retold here for children in comic strip form, beautifully detailed, with witty little comments and drawings scattered amongst the story. The Iliad tells the story of the war between the Greeks and the Trojans, the love between Helen and Paris, Achilles and Hector's deadly combat, the Trojan Horse...things we have heard of but are never quite sure why until we read this story. The Odyssey depicts the perilous voyage home of the Greek warrior Odysseus, from the war against the Trojans, an adventurous struggle against the one eyed Cyclops, the deadly Sirens and the six headed Scylla, amongst others... I read this to help me understand the story around The Silence of the Girls by Pat Barker, as I'd never really been interested in the Greek myths before, but my interest was sparked, and hence there might be lots of posts about books like this 🙂.  Published by @walkerbooks. Find out more here - https://www.walker.co.uk/The-Iliad-and-the-Odyssey-9781406303483.aspx 

Albert Supersize by Ian Brown and Eoin Clarke. The latest installment in the adventures of Albert the tortoise. This crazy tale is his biggest adventure yet, and begins with a Jurassic dream about saving the dinosaurs from the erupting volcano, as he wonders what it would be like to be bigger. When he wakes up he finds all his minibeast friends in need of help. And because he's bigger than them, he's the perfect size to help. A lovely tale of friendship and big dreams, based on the real Albert @AlbertTheTortoise.  Published by @graffeg. Find out more here - https://graffeg.com/products/albert-supersize

George the Brave by Eva Papousková and Galina MiklĂ­nová. George the wombat is playing in the dark woods with his friends when Wilma the fox arrives, feeling hungry! He has to think fast and be brave, to try to get the better of the wily fox. Brilliant drawings of the scary looking fox, and the funny dancing wombats complete this story of conquering your fears, and knocking a fox's teeth out with your bottom.  And did you know that wombats, as well as being incredibly rare, have incredibly strong bottoms which they use to defend themselves with by thrusting them at the enemy!! Well I learnt something new today. Published by @graffeg. Find out more here - https://graffeg.com/products/george-the-brave 

The Prison Doctor by Dr Amanda Brown.  Memoir from a GP who left general practice for a new challenge, walking into a prison for youth aged 15-18. This experience leads her onto a few years working at HMP Wormwood Scrubs, and then onto HMP Bronzefield, Britain's largest women only prison. The stories she tells are heartbreaking while at the same time inspiring.  All the while, no matter how hard it is, or the crimes that have been committed, she is spurred on by the instinct to care for those in great need. I'm going to read the next installment, The Prison Doctor, Women Inside, as I really couldn't put this one down.  Published by @harpercollins.  Find out more here -  https://www.waterstones.com/author/dr-amanda-brown/4119077

Fletcher and the rockpool by Julia Rawlinson and Tiphanie Beeke.  This seasonal series continues with a summery tale about Fletcher the little fox, who's on a trip to the beach with Mum. Fletcher's exploring and cones across a little pool, he lies on his tummy and peers in, amazed at the creatures and the colours. But the water's disappearing fast, and Fletcher wants to save the limpets and sea anemone from the baking sun. As much as he tries, Fletcher just can't fill the rockpool and  the seagull explains that it's just the tide at work. Next morning Fletcher and his Mum wake up on the beach and he rushes to check on his rockpool friends, amazed to see the rockpool full of water again. A beautiful, enchanting story, perfectly captured in the delightful illustrations, reminding us that what we need more than ever at the moment is to teach our children to notice the slow pace of nature, the changes over time, and our total dependence and interlinked relationship with it.  Published by @graffeg.  Find out more here - https://graffeg.com/products/fletcher-and-the-rockpool  

The Prison Doctor, Women Inside by Dr Amanda Brown.  More stories from the fascinating and revealing world of the prison doctor.  This time, more from inside Britain's biggest women's prison, Bronzefield. There are tragic stories, uplifting stories, stories of despair and stories of hope in this second memoir from Dr Brown. Now, onto the third and final installment, stories from inside a foreign nationals prison.  Published by @harpercollins.   Find out more here - https://www.waterstones.com/book/the-prison-doctor-women-inside/dr-amanda-brown/9780008385736

Parklands, a school built on love by Chris Dyson. Parklands Primary School is in Leeds, and many of its children face significant hardship, and challenges in language and literacy. But Parkland sis an Outstanding school, both in Ofsted speak, and in achieving amazing outcomes for children. This is from the blurb on the back of the book, and I'm immediately interested in the story behind this success. Chris Dyson is the head teacher behind the idea for a loving environment in which all learners can thrive. Before he arrived Parklands was a place of restraint, isolation and exclusion. So how did he turn it around? Love, and trust, which are embedded in every interaction, and every policy, and the children come first, every time. He believes in reaching out to the community, and never giving up, valuing relationships and going over and above with safeguarding. He says he's a "teacher leading teachers, not a spreadsheet manager...", leading by example and demonstrating pedagogy. I absolutely love his piece on uniform..."if we love them" why does it matter if the jumper has a logo or the socks are black or the hair is a certain length? He's by no means suggesting it was easy to do, and it took a lot of time for changes to embed, for example poor behaviour was transformed by starting with encouraging positive behaviour, catching children doing the right thing and really making a big thing of it. So, no bored children, exciting and motivating lessons, and real life experiences, and lots of cool music and singing along. I don't really need to say much more, i think you get the gist by now. This is an inspirational tale, written in a truly accessible, chatty style, that shows us what is possible if we turn things on their head and sometimes ask ourselves "why do we do it like that?", and "why not?".  Published by @crownhousepub. Find out more here - https://www.crownhouse.co.uk/parklands 

The Prison Doctor, the final sentence.  Stories from inside a foreign national prison. Doctor Brown is back at HMP Huntercombe again, although now it is a prison for Foreign Nationals, those who are mainly awaiting deportation.  In the past it has been an internment camp during World War II and a juvenile prison. The prison's independent monitoring board has recently suggested that there is a lack of resources for resettlement at Huntercombe, suggesting that the budget be increased for this, as it shows unfairness between the way UK national offenders are treated and those who are foreign nationals.  As usual, Doctor Brown meets some interesting characters during her 2 days a week as a locum there, from the cheery  Ghanaian Mr Kobe, to the literally larger than life Mr Khan with his smelly rash, and the Syrian Usama whose partner died on their journey to the UK and who is terrified to be returned to his homeland for fear of death as he is gay.  Lots of smiles appear amongst the illness, infection and irritability, and she recounts the incredibly sad story of losing her husband in a mere 4 weeks to cancer. Recommended reading, I did get a bit addicted after the first book, as it's a rare insight into the prison world which we outsiders know little about, but really should, so we can spread awareness about a system that is debatably in need of much reform.  Published by @harpercollins.  Find out more here - https://www.waterstones.com/book/the-prison-doctor/dr-amanda-brown/9780008448011

A Guide to Mental health for Early Years Educators - putting wellbeing at the heart of your philosophy and practice by Kate Moxley.  I've been searching for ages for a book around the topic of mental health specifically for those of us who work in early childhood, and this has hit the spot perfectly.  The author is an early years consultant with experience of working in many types of setting, who specialises in wellbeing and mental health.  Her Facebook page @katemoxleywellnessforall is great.  There's a lot of misunderstanding and a lack of awareness around mental health, and a book like this, which is incredibly accessible as well as practical, can only help.  Even now, we still come across those who think we could just "snap out of it" or "cheer up".   This is a little book with a really big potential impact.  I think it should be essential reading for all early years educators, just like I think training in childhood mental health, wellbeing, empathy, emotional literacy and adverse childhood experiences should be compulsory in the same way as first aid and safeguarding are.  The book is packed full of information as well as case studies from early years professionals who bring a real life experience to the information presented. One of the most powerful questions she poses to us readers is WHY? Why are we working with young children? What do we love about our work? Why are we there and what is our passion? It's a good place to start.  A big takeaway from the book is some writing around being either an "emotional judge" (what is wrong with this person?), or an "emotional scientist" (genuinely caring what is going on for this person).  Kate wonders what the early years sector would be like if we "all worked in an early years ecosystem where we were all equipped to be emotional scientists". Where people listen more, judge less, where all emotions are accepted and appreciated, where feelings are seen as strengths not weaknesses, where more people felt they could be their authentic best selves, where depression and anxiety rates were reduced and where there would be less bullying, a greater sense of belonging and more harmonious relationships.  I would add to that, more kindness and empathy. And actually I hope one day we can say this about the whole world not just the UK early years sector.  What sort of world would we live in if more politicians had more if this....... I'll leave it there.  Really, really a must read. Published by @routledge.  Find out more here - https://www.waterstones.com/book/a-guide-to-mental-health-for-early-years-educators/kate-moxley/9780367704261

Ebb and Flow and the sea monster by Jane Simmons. Another beautifully illustrated tale about little Flo and her dog Ebb. Granny is looking at the local paper and reading a story about Morgawr the sea monster, that's been spotted by observant locals. Mum, Flo and Ebb get stranded on the island on their way home from Granny's. Is the mysterious shadow in the middle of the night, Morgawr the sea monster?  Published by @graffeg. Find out more here - https://graffeg.com/collections/childrens-books/products/ebb-and-flo-and-the-sea-monster 

What happened to you? -  Conversations on trauma, resilience and healing by Bruce Perry and Oprah Winfrey.  Laid out as a conversation, this new book from one of the world's leading experts on child trauma, is essential reading for anyone who wants to understand how what happens to us in early childhood influences the people we become. Oprah shares stories of her harrowing past and and Dr Bruce Perry sensitively links these stories to his research and experience with children who have expoerienced trauma. The message is that by shifting our thinking from "What's wrong with you?" to "What happened to you?", we can create a more connected communities, and build resilience for the future. This is especially important in today's world, where societies continue to be turned upside down by unnecessary war, pandemic, and the effects of climate change and biodiversity loss.  They also discuss how trauma can be transmitted through generations, and how it's impossible to be a trauma-informed society unless we recognise that we all have built-in biases, and that our systems have built-in structural biases (regarding race, gender, sexual orientation etc).  Any section of society that's excluded or dehumanised or marginalized, is a traumatised section of society. So a truly trauma-informed system is an anti-racist system.  And at an early years level, if we are faced with a child upset, grumpy, sad, crying, we must change our language to "What happened?" instead of "What's wrong with you?", name the feeling, help them to regulate, connect and then they will be able to reason with us and help to work it out or solve the problem. And lots of cuddles help too.  Published by @panmacmillan.  Find out more here - https://www.waterstones.com/book/what-happened-to-you/oprah-winfrey/dr-bruce-perry/9781529068504

World Tales for Family Storytelling II by Chris Smith.  This is a follow-up collection of more short, simple and quick to learn traditional tales from around the world, and although it says for children from 6 to 8, it would depend on the children and would definitely work with younger ones.  There are tales from all around the world, from Japan to West Africa to Greece and Scotland.  Not just for families though, those who work with children in the early years would find some of these good to share too.  Stories told in this way, without reading from a picture book, really encourage and promote listening skills, as well as all the benefits of sharing picture book stories such as finding out about the world, developing a language if feelings and emotions, and encouraging creativity and imagination.   Published by @hawthornpress.  Find out more here - https://www.hawthornpress.com/books/storytelling/world-tales-for-family-storytelling-2/

Bob the Dog gets a Job by Tracey Hammett and Angie Stevens. Bob likes to be busy. So she's off looking for a job and happens to come across the ice cream festival in the park. No-one needs any help until she meets Mr Flaky, who's off to buy more co es and asks Bob to step in. It's going fine, absolutely fine in fact, until the ice cre nozzle gets stuck and jce cream is pouring out everywhere. Bob's creativity and imagination come in handy - she creates giant ice cream sundaes in any clean receptacle available, from a frisby to a policeman's hat.  Hilarious antics, fabulously illustrated. I especially love the look on Pat the cat's face when she sees what Bob's made her for tea.  Published by @graffeg. Find out more here - https://graffeg.com/collections/books-1/products/bob-the-dog-gets-a-job

Imagine Eating Lemons. A children's introduction to mindfulness by Jason Rhodes and Richard Dearing. Here we meet Chester Chestnut, a small person with some big thoughts and feelings. Through this rhyming journey we discover Chester's trick to help when he gets worried or anxious. Mindful breathing. "He takes a deep breath in... and wiggles all his toes. He feels his tingly fingertips and tickling in his nose." Then he stops and as he breathes he listens to the sounds he can hear around him, becoming calmer all the time. And we learn that our thoughts are so powerful they can even change the way we feel. This is a great introduction to mindful breathing through the medium of a story, perfect for 3 and 4 year olds who sometimes need to calm down! Mindfulness is a skill that can be learnt, and it's an essential skill too, that's so beneficial to us all.  Published by @graffeg. Find out more here - https://graffeg.com/collections/books-1/products/imagine-eating-lemons

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