Welcome to the third blog post in our series with primary ITE lecturers, Rachel Eperjesi and Tracey Wire.


Welcome to the third blog post in our series with primary ITE lecturers, Rachel Eperjesi and Tracey Wire. Rachel and Tracey both lecture in English on the undergraduate and postgraduate primary teacher training courses. In this series, they will be sharing some children’s literature with us…

It’s good to have you back again. I’ve been really enjoying your book suggestions and I’m ready for some more recommendations.

Rachel:  Well, this time we’ve decided to take a look at this year’s Blue Peter Book Awards short list.

Tracey:  We’ve been waiting until the winner was announced.

Rachel: Yes, but shall we leave that one till last?

Tracey: So shall we begin with The Clockwork Crow by Catherine Fisher (@FisherAuthor)? I was gripped by this one from the beginning.

Rachel: The story begins with orphan, Seren Rhys, finding herself looking after a mysterious package in a station waiting room, whilst waiting for a train to take her to the home of her godfather. However, when she arrives, the family are missing, leaving only a handful of servants to take care of her.

Tracey:  As the story unfolds, we discover the unexpected contents of the package: a clockwork crow, who helps Seren to solve the mystery of the missing family.

Rachel: I really liked the fast pace and the fact that there was lots of suspense, without too much peril.

Tracey: The way that the character of the crow was developed and the relationship between him and Seren evolved was charming. The setting was beautifully described by the author, bringing it to life.

Rachel: I think this book is ideal to share with lower Key Stage 2 pupils, with many of them also likely to be able to read it independently.

That was a good start. I’m already excited at the prospect of picking-up that one. What else was short listed?

Tracey: The next one is The House with Chicken Legs by Sophie Anderson (@sophieinspace), with some lovely illustrations by Eliza Paganelli. This one is based on the Eastern European tale of Baba Yaga and her house with chicken legs…

Rachel: The house can use its legs to run across the land to new settings! Baba Yaga’s granddaughter, Marinka, is the main character in the story. She is destined to also become a Yaga (or spirit guide), but all she really wants is to live a normal life and to stay in one place long enough to make some friends.

Tracey: This is really the story of a girl who is trying to take control of her own future and work out what is important in life. We don’t want to say too much as we don’t want to spoil the story.

Rachel: The book tackles some challenging issues, including bereavement, finding your own path, a sense of duty and the complexities of friendship. This would be ideal to share with upper Key Stage 2 pupils.

Tracey: The imagery created is really powerful and this ensured the story has really stuck with me.

Rachel: Despite being based on traditional folklore, this story sits outside what we might usually think of as a novel for young children and will certainly expand children’s literary horizons.                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                             

That sounds intriguing. And, finally, the winner?

Tracey: This one would have definitely been our choice of winner as well. The Boy at the Back of the Class by Onjali Q. Raúf (@OnjaliRauf) is a wonderful story. Told from the point of view of one of the nine year old characters, this is the story of Ahmet, a Syrian refugee, and his small group of school friends.

Rachel: Initially, Ahmet doesn’t speak, so his friends know very little about him but are still keen to make him feel welcome, despite the efforts of a bully in the class. As the story progresses, the group of friends discover more about Ahmet’s background and set out to help him overcome some of the challenges he is facing.

Tracey: This is a must-read in the Key Stage 2 classroom. Not only is it beautifully written, it tackles some important issues that many children will have limited experience of but are likely to encounter in their everyday lives.

Rachel: Whilst enjoying a fantastic piece of literature, children will also learn some important life lessons from this immersive story.

Tracey: After the story, the author has included a series of appendices that give it some context, building children’s knowledge in an accessible way. It is clear that she is keen to highlight the plight of refugees, with some of her royalties pledged to ‘some wonderfully brave people who spend every single day trying to help save and rebuild the lives of refugees all over the world’.

Rachel: This book, with its underlying message, is an emotional rollercoaster for all and we feel that everyone should read it. Not only did it win Best Story in this year’s Blue Peter Book Awards, it also won the Waterstones Children’s Book Prize 2019.

Well, that gives me some inspiration for where to go next for my reading and I’m already looking forward to what you have for us next. . .

If you missed the last blog post, it can be found here: https://uniofglos.blog/education/2019/02/28/welcome-to-the-next-blog-post-in-our-series-with-primary-ite-lecturers-rachel-eperjesi-and-tracey-wire/