This time last year, I was buzzing with ideas for a children’s bookshop. I wanted it to sell selected quality books to families and schools and offer informed advice. I saw a need to fill the voids of which I am aware through teaching years and interaction with families. A year and a pub lunch later and Mr Bookwagon, who was but a glimmer of a delivery route in my eye a year ago, and I are about to step up the business with bold new directions.

Bold new directions are something many parents and teachers request from Bookwagon in its day to day business. If I had a penny for the number of times I’m asked, ‘He/ she likes David Walliams/ Tom Gates/ Jacqueline Wilson/ Magic Faraway Tree……. what can he/ she move onto?’ I’d be able to afford a ticket to the Mar-A- Lago New Year’s Eve Trump gala! 

There is a lot to cheer about when your young reader becomes captivated by a writer or series. It’s when the reader realises that reading makes sense and brings him or her pleasure.

As a child, I was insistent upon reading every book of a series, or by a particular author,. It could be ‘Famous Five‘, ‘Anne of Green Gables‘ or Tessa Duder’s ‘Alex‘. I am the same today. I insist on a need to read every book written by Ann Patchett, Anne Tyler, Elizabeth Strout, Lloyd Jones or Richard Russo.

At each change, when I’ve run out of an author’s titles, or a series, I’ve felt bereft. I felt this way again most recently, when I’d completed the Laura Marlin Mysteries by Lauren St. John- A Laura Marlin Mystery Dead Man’s Cove. I love this series. The fact we’ve sold one copy only, baffles me.

When you love a series or writer, you can hear the writer’s voice. Any reader at this stage has some startling reading advantages occurring within them. He or she:-

  • comprehends the setting, i.e., they can visualise and describe the place and time;
  • knows the characters, so that they can hear their voices, realise how they act, differentiate between their behaviours and characteristics, likes and dislikes;
  • is able to predict what might happen with greater certainty because of their familiarity;
  • can make informed statements and comparisons based on their experience of the stories;
  • realises how language flows in a story. Researchers recommend children are read to in their readers’, e.g., parents’, first language, so they may hear a confident flow of language as it should follow;
  • has an opportunity to ‘infer’, i.e., read between the lines, because of his/her familiarity;
  • grasps how language is structured in a story, i.e., how a story is formed.

Hearing the author’s voice’ is a vital marker for reading. Ask your child what happens when he or she is reading to himself/ herself? Does he or she ‘hear‘ the story? Can they ‘hear‘ the characters, the author’s voice, the descriptions? Once your child is at that point, they are ‘free’ reading. They are ‘hooked’ on books. Incidentally, what happens to you, when you are reading?

There are benefits of selling books we have read and love only. One is that it allows us to follow up writers and illustrators whose works we respect and enjoy particularly. The flip side is that we will not include a title if we feel it does not measure up to its stablemates. Keen readers may realise omissions from a couple of our series inclusions.

A concern with pursuing a series beyond its and your natural end is that the pleasure diminishes. It can seem to be like eating too much of one foodstuff; after a while you cannot realise the ‘flavour’. We understand that many of our readers love to follow up a Lemony Snickert, a Harry Potter, a Wimpy Kid with more of the same, almost exclusively.  However each of these is not the only character, the only book, the only theme or subject, or the only series. So, where next? I find that the best way to pick up and maintain my reading momentum, is to look to a similar series, or one that is completely different. When you’re of Tom Gates’ reading age, it can seem totally devastating, and the quest for the next title, may feel desperate.

I suggest for your typical Tom Gates/ David Walliams reader, that you look to the works of Lissa Evans, like Small Change for Stuart or Andrew Norriss’s I Don’t Believe it Archie. Readers could step sideways into quality non-fiction such as William Grill’s Shackleton’s Journey or the bizarre and captivating Impossible Inventions Ideas that Shouldn’t Work. These offer opportunity to extend the reader’s reading range and repertoire. This is so important at this age, so the pleasure and meaning offered by reading are enhanced and heightened. 

We love Helen Peters’ Jasmine Green series, too, starting with A Sheepdog Called Sky and anticipate the next installment in spring, keenly.

Bookwagon is able to offer suggestions for your reader looking for new or different paths, or along that continuum. We appreciate enabling readers to take real pleasure and meaning from their books. Readers may explore, discover, interpret and question from the wealth of sophisticated picture books available on our site. There are always endless possibilities with high quality sophisticated picture books. They offer the best route into developing confident reading comprehension skills.

We have been reading a lot over our Christmas and New year break ahead of the incoming spring tide of new publications. Readers will have the best quality titles available from those we select. Along the way, we’ve encountered a few wonderful picture books like On a Magical Do- Nothing Day, winner of the 2017 Landerneau award. We were fascinated by Caldecott award winner Chris Van Allsburg’s The Misadventures of Sweetie-Pie. Something entirely different was the rediscovered work by designer Jacqueline Ayer, The Paper-Flower Tree.

We’ve also been extending our repertoire to include real life, meaningful works like Berlie Doherty’s Blue Peter Award nominee The Girl Who Saw Lions. For older readers, we recommend Sally Nicholls’ acclaimed suffragette novel  Things A Bright Girl Can Do. Mr Bookwagon is building quite a relationship with Lissa Evans’ works. Her latest is included in many 2018 nomination lists. Wed Wabbit  is a favourite we recommend to readers aged from 9 or 10 years of age. A reading highlight for Mr Bookwagon is the enthralling Australian title Into the White: Scott’s Antarctic Odyssey.  This seeks to expand on the aims and achievements of the ill-fated expedition.

Bookwagon invite parents, families, friends and schools to contact us for recommendations. You may require a new direction in reading choices for your young readers. You could be seeking a  a change of pace or theme, or a recharge. We know and love our books. We relish opportunities to match them to readers who will enjoy them. (There may be a few good matches amongst our sale titles!)

Meanwhile, the Bookwagon team wishes you all a very happy year ahead, with lots of happy reading!

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