A time to read
Bookwagon was formed to celebrate, share and sell children’s books we’ve read and love. We aim to support a wide range of writers and illustrators. Increasingly, we do this at popup events at schools and special events. In fact, we were in the fortunate position of being booked until and including World Book Day 2021. We began to breathe out a little. Then the Covid- 19 crisis knocked the wheels off our trolley, as it bulldozed its way into society.
So, Bookwagon is working from base. We have time to read our To Be Read piles and add books we’ve read to the site. Finally, it’s meant I’ve time to write a blog! While we’re somewhat confined to base with wonderful books to share and new titles ahead, we aim to support families and schools
Family reading sharing
What you know
Bookwagon curates, shares and shows children’s books during our popup visits.
Always, our goal is to build upon the fine work of families and teachers with whom we engage. These are readers who love and share children’s books. They want children to realise that little is as precious as taking the time to read. Nobody who wants to build or be a reader needs anything other than a model and enthusiast.
What you need to know
During the current crisis Bookwagon will share titles we want you to know about on social media. Please excuse the nerves – it’s always much better with children, live! There will be an individual title featured each day.
A personal recommendation
Furthermore Bookwagon will offer a code:- springbooks– with 20% discount on the price of any book, other than subscriptions or offer titles. This discount is available until March 26th.
There is a separate discount code of 20%:- springbundle – offered for our Book Bundle. Here, customers are invited to subscribe to up to 12 titles. Take a look at the details. This discount will be available until midnight on March 26th, also.
Picture book selection
Covid-19 virus is impacting on all our lives, society and the economy. As I write schools face enormous pressures, particularly. I’m concerned that writers and illustrators, who depend on the income from school visits to take a living wage, will be particularly adversely affected. Certainly, Bookwagon is worried about our future.
Kate Scott and reader
There are so many writers and illustrators with new books arriving around this time about which we want you to know. Additionally, there are books that you may have missed, that we are keen to share with you. So watch our social media pages, to see what’s available, what we’ve read and what’s popping up on our latest titles. Don’t forget to scroll through our yellow tag cloud to discover books to suit your reader also. We’re updating constantly.
Recently released fiction paperbacks
Meanwhile, our best thoughts are with you and your readers of all ages.
This is a reading school
‘This is a reading school’ are words that cheer our hearts. While we realise such a declaration is mandatory, it suggests determination. Yet what is a reading school?
I am reluctant to comment or advise about the reading schemes and methods employed by schools publicly after three years away from teaching full-time. I share my experience and training when asked. However I know what makes a reading school.
Curated and waiting popup book stand
Preparing to meet the reading school
Bookwagon creates our popup book fairs meticulously. We are still making a final selection, considering the best matches for the school we are visiting, right up until the evening ahead of the visit. I peruse all the information I have amassed. No two popup book fairs are identical.
Recently we had a run of five across a week in four different counties. We curated our lists specifically for each setting. We have a good idea of the likely outcome of a visit from the interactions with the school before we arrive. Having a contact who is proactive, enquiring and excited about our visit guarantees a Bookwagon popup book fair will be a hit! We will be visiting a reading school.
Setting up a school popup book fair
Schemes and expectations
We do not create a popup book fair to support a school’s reading program because reading for pleasure doesn’t work that way for any one. A packaged measuring scheme or reading journey record, neither creates nor maintains a reading habit. Bookwagon supports the good work families and schools do to build readers for life. Reading schools build readers for life.
How do families build readers for life?
Parents build readers for life through demonstrating their own need to read. They have a reading habit, and show that reading satisfies and informs their lives. They model reading every day. There is a family bedtime reading routine that everyone enjoys. Library visits are commonplace. Books are gifted, discussed, compared, enjoyed, and treasured.
Bedtime shared reading
How do schools build readers for life?
Schools build readers for life with teachers who demonstrate their need to read. Staff model reading every day. Book shelves are kept in good order, with titles updated, displayed, discussed, reviewed while old titles are replaced or discarded. The school values its library. Staff seek to know what children like reading. They seek to extend experience and understanding. Reading is celebrated. Books are discussed, compared, enjoyed and treasured. Personal, recreational, unevaluated reading time is part of the daily timetable.
Emily Hughes, school visit
The library in the reading school
Reading schools ask our advice about their library stock. Bookwagon reads every book it sells, which means we can offer confident recommendations about titles, genres, collections. Furthermore, our experience means we know what works, i.e., which books and writers can go with others, to encourage a reading for life habit.
Teachers visiting a recent popup
Recently, we have been asked for guidance by four schools seeking to establish and extend their school library. While one school sought a particular genre, another sought titles for a particular key stage. The other two requested suggestions as to long term development. Two of the schools have enrolled with our School Orders subscription service, developed to support schools’ specific reading needs.
Bookwagon is about to hit the road anew with popup book fairs across London and the Home Counties until the end of the year. We pick up the pace in the spring anew. We hope to meet reading schools such as the last setting we had the pleasure to experience.
This primary school included ‘Drop Everything and Read‘ in its daily timetable for everyone on site. Books were thoughtfully displayed at child friendly heights and accessible front covers. Thereafter, titles, authors and genres were labelled clearly. We did not see battered, abandoned books. It seemed like the school library was the active heart of the school.
Sharing books at a recent school popup
Staff visited our popup and asked us about our book selections. Furthermore, they made suggestions and shared their experiences. They encouraged visitors, directing them toward choices they thought they would enjoy. Staff demonstrated their interest through browsing, asking our opinions, and being seen to buy our books. The Headteacher and senior staff engaged with us throughout our visit. This reading school showed that reading for pleasure, with the opportunity to extend reading range and experience, is essential.
Reading teacher, ‘I Am a Tiger‘
The students at this school enquired about our books. We read everything we sell, which meant that we could talk about our books and make informed decisions. Even KS1 children listened, asked questions and made choices based around what they heard and saw. Many children shared their opinions and experiences, and their reading selections proved wide and varied. We sold out of picture books. At no point did any visitor to our popup book fair suggest that they were ‘too old for picture books’. This reading school respects the value of every genre.
Picture books, Chris Naylor-Ballesteros
The school did not raise its reading program with Mr Bookwagon and me for this was irrelevant. However we know that this school is a reading school from our experience of the school’s practice in building readers for life. Bookwagon feels privileged to have been part of that initiative.
The reader for life
We hope your school is a reading school!
My blog posts are erratic despite best intentions to write fortnightly. Like many, I am time, sleep and leisure poor. It seems life is about working through the rush. It could be television binge watching, a seven-minute workout, or 30-minute no fuss dinners. Recently, Bake Off winner, Nadiya Hussain created ‘Time to Eat‘. She offered ‘recipes designed to help us all save time and calm our hectic lives’.
What is the rush? Who is counting down? Furthermore, are we permitted time to read?
Bookwagon is on an autumn tour, from Somerset to Surrey, North London to the Midlands. The journeys allow us time to read and a lot of time to catch up and make discoveries. We are captives in the car. We talk about the books we’ve read and enjoyed. I’ve realised anew how much Mr Bookwagon loves the series initiated by Rory Branagan, Detective He feels Lucy Strange is amongst his favourite middle grade writers- The Secret of Nightingale Wood and Our Castle By The Sea.
Reading on the move
I’m reminded of how important it is to have time to talk about the books we’ve read. There are book groups, obviously, and schemes built around books, but what about the reading? Isn’t that most valuable?
The Somerset Tsunami by Emma Carroll
It was an honour to popup within the esteemed gathering of the annual Somerset Literacy Network meeting. Speakers included Charlotte Hacking and Farrah Serroukh (CLPE- Centre for Literacy in Primary Education). Both emphasised the need for educators to take time to read and consider what they are reading with their classes. The pair spoke about the role of pictures in reading, emphasising the value of taking time to develop visual literacy. They encouraged the company to absorb the view and pitch perfect text in picture books like those from guest Joseph Coelho.
Somerset Literacy Network Bookwagon popup
Guest Nicola Davies spoke of time anew. She asked us to consider the three hundred years it takes for an oak tree to grow to full maturity.
Later, guest Laura Carlin shared her sketchbook. She asked us to contemplate the time it has taken her to grow into the illustrator and designer she is now. We were reminded of how important it is to be allowed to be wrong, erase, review and view.
From acorn to oak…
Laura Carlin’s sketchbook
Bookwagon supports and arranges visits by writers and illustrators. We know the value of these to schools. School funding issues and the rigidity of school timetables can make these difficult. Indirect, deep learning potential of school visits may not be realised because of dense school schedules. Do these schools allow time to chat and discover, and time to read?
The ticking clock
We are all working to deadlines. Nadiya Hussain repeated, ‘In our time short world….‘ We watch Noel and Sandi shouting about how much time the GBBO contestants have to perfect their jaw-dropping crafts. Thereafter, we block our ears to Gregg Wallace’s or Joe Lycett’s warnings, or Michelle Ogundehin’s footsteps approaching as would-be designers fluff their cushions ahead of deadline. It is little wonder that so many viewers enjoy ‘The Repair Shop’. Craftsmanship is valued over a time limit, here.
Migrations, 2019 nominee for BAMB Beautiful Book Award
A consideration of targets
Who sets these targets? What do they determine? What are we seeking? Does everyone step to the same beat?
Could it be, as Nicola Davies and I considered, that animals, such as dolphins and whales, are superior to us in that they follow a natural rhythm? Artificial goals, affirmation through targets, the need for ‘things’ do not determine worth or happiness.
Dolphin, Cedar Key, Florida
Deadlines for writers
In Spring 2020, we are promised ‘The Mirror and the Light’, the third, long awaited,final book of Hilary Mantel’s Cromwell trilogy. The writer said, ‘“When I began work on my Thomas Cromwell books back in 2005, I had high hopes, but it took time to feel out the full scope of the material. I didn’t know at first I would write a trilogy, but gradually I realised the richness and fascination of this extraordinary life. I hope they will stay with me as we walk the last miles of Cromwell’s life, ascending to unprecedented riches and honour and abruptly descending to the scaffold at Tower Hill. This book has been the greatest challenge of my writing life, and the most rewarding; I hope and trust my readers will find it has been worth the wait.”
Worth the wait…. We’ve been aware this year, of writers at the end of their tether, desperate to meet deadlines. These are writers whose income and self-belief depends on meeting deadlines. Bills, edits and thereafter, sales concern them. We can at least offer them the courtesy of taking time to read their works.
The Adventures of Harry Stevenson
Recent Desert Island Discs’ guest Lin-Manuel Miranda of ‘Hamilton‘ says he gets his best ideas from ‘listening to people’s stories‘, and ‘playing around in my imagination.’
When Nicola Davies discussed her poignant picture book,Perfect she reminded us about swifts. She explained their design enables them to fly continually for two years, so that their lives are on the wing. They ‘live meaningful lives’.
Lin-Manuel Miranda’s first chosen disc, ‘Cabaret’, reminds us that ‘it isn’t that long a stay.’ So, let’s take time to read. Reading offers possibilities, avenues, explanations, questions, affirmation that ‘We’re all right.’ Aren’t we all better for taking this time?
Bookwagon hopes you have made a happy return to the new academic year. This annual marker affects everyone in the community, from hairdresser to long-distance lorry driver. However, the biggest, most lasting effect of the start of a school year is upon the school goer. These first days are daunting especially for the very young. There is such pressure in being small within a big new world.
Assuming new people, routines and settings in new places is stressful. Furthermore it is demanding for families. There is a comfort in returning to the familiar at the end of a working day, with food, chat, bed, bath and books. Bookwagon seeks to be part of your daily routine with books we’ve read and love and recommend to you. Happy new school year.
At the end of a school day
In the meantime…
Bookwagon has refined its appearance and products, while the world enjoyed its summer holiday. We are proud of our new look and opportunities. There is a variety of subscription packages, including Book Bundle and a Birthday list service.
The first enables a customer to buy a bunch of books for a reader, maybe a series, or a selection created from the information you provide. It’s an especially great choice for the reading devotee, as a gift, or for a specific period of time.
The second, the Birthday list service, was inspired by a regular customer requesting gift books for her daughters’ friends’ parties. What if you could preorder a number of gift books, advising us of recipients’ essential details ahead of their celebration? Bookwagon chooses the book, gift wraps and writes your birthday message before posting the selection. What is better than the gift of a book?
A message from Bookwagon
Bookwagon offers a bespoke service. Being small means we can assist our customers personally, using our knowledge of our children’s books to suit specific individual needs.
It means we can get to know our writers too. Recently we met with acclaimed non-fiction narrative writer, Joanna Grochowicz. After failing to find biographies about the polar explorers to fulfil her sons’ interest, this writer created her own. Extensive research and commitment culminated in Into the White: Scott’s Antarctic Odyssey and Amundsen’s Way: The Race to the South Pole. Ernest Shackleton’s polar adventure will feature in a third title.
Joanna Grochowicz, London, September 2019
Into the White and Amundsen’s Way
We are proud to be Joanna’s on site bookseller during her schools’ tour in November, and then again in December. Moreover, her first visits coincide with National Non-Fiction November. Imagine stepping inside an historic figure’s (snow) shoes, ‘feeling’ their determination, fears, hopes and experience. Joanna’s books are stirring, informative and important.
I have learned to drown out the clamour of bigger booksellers despite feeling intimidated by their reach. Reading every book we sell means we are less inclined to rush to a new release likely to be splashed across the chain stores. Being small means Bookwagon may champion titles and writers lesser known but meriting a wide readership. We recommend books through our experience of them, with authority.
During the summer I enjoyed reading Gabrielle Kent’s Penfurzy set adventure series- Knights and Bikes and Knights and Bikes Rebel Bicycle Club. The first was an introductory selection for small startup Brixton publisher ‘Knights Of…‘
Knights and Bikes’ series
I could hear the Cornish accented Demelza, and smell the oil of the bike chains. What a great adventure series, with crafty Arthurian links!
Small, bubbly, smelly and communicative
On Thursday, the third title in Jennifer Killick’s ‘Alex Sparrow’ series is released. I read these titles backwards, i.e., I read and loved Mo, Lottie and the Junkers ahead of Jennifer’s Alex series. As our gift book subscribers can attest, I love that first title SO much and recommend it hugely. The beauty of being an independent children’s bookseller is that I am able to read our books in the order I choose; I’m not being driven by the market or a publicist.
‘Mo, Lottie and the Junkers’ inspired me to read both ‘Alex Sparrow’ titles on the trot. What a treat! If your reader enjoys books with dialogue, humour, rather annoying main characters, flaws, the unexpected, quirky humour, coincidence and pratfalls, please don’t overlook Jennifer Killick’s titles. Roll on in ‘Alex Sparrow and the Zombie Apocalypse’!
Titles by Jennifer Killick
Small publishing houses
Many of of Bookwagon’s favourite titles have emerged from smaller, bespoke publishing houses. These appear to have a vested interest in discovering and nurturing quality writers and picture book makers.
However smaller publishing houses have cautious print runs, through necessity. Furthermore, they do not have the big marketing budgets of large international publishing houses, nor the network for global sales. This means writers and picture book makers are at the mercy of booksellers and a reading public. What a responsibility!
A Bookwagon gift book
It can be frustrating to be a reading bookseller, championing wonderful writers. So often publicity is attached to known writers or picture book makers, reprised titles, or the quick thrill of a debut. It’s why we read every book we sell, so that we can urge readers toward books and writers and picture books we know you’ll enjoy.
What it means
Being small and independent offers this bookseller opportunities to read and sell international titles like Felicita Sala’s Lunch at 10 Pomegranate Street, created in France, or Australian Aaron Blabey’s riotous The Bad Guys. We cheer the arrival of Uncle Shawn and Bill and the Not One Tiny Bit Lovey-Dovey Moon Adventure the third title in A.L.Kennedy (yes, that one) and Gemma Correll’s bizarre, hilarious series, celebrating kindness and individuality.
Bookwagon new titles
Being small can be powerful, as Clementine shows, in picture book maker Chris Wormell’s astounding graphic story, The Magic Place
Small is powerful in real life. Mr Bookwagon and I were both brought to tears reading the true stories selected for Children Who Changed the World. As I write another small, strong girl protests outside the White House; Greta’s Story
A new Bookwagon chapter book selection
On the road
Being small means that when Bookwagon is called to popup in schools throughout London and the Home Counties, we curate each event specifically. We work to create book fair selections that captivate, win and challenge readers. It’s a demanding order, but one we love!
There is value in being small, starting small, but reading large and widely. We look forward to sharing a depth and breadth of wonderful reading opportunities throughout the new season and beyond. We can’t wait!
We open with a thank you
Recently Bookwagon celebrated two years in operation. We have made so many discoveries along the way.
As a special thank you for being aboard with us, special subscribers and loyal customers are offered a 15% discount on products, aside from those already on offer. Enter the code AUG08 at the checkout. This offer is available until midnight August 12th.
A year ago we developed the Bookwagon site notably. Now, a second year in, we’re revising it anew to include extensions to our subscription programme and further information about services. We have learned so much about the mechanics of websites!
The children in your family, or those with whom you work, will be making discoveries this summer. When I taught, I felt children learned more in their ‘off task’ times than their structured lessons (discuss!)
Bruce Lee said, ‘Life itself is your teacher and you are in a constant state of learning.’ Time to make discoveries is rare in our scheduled lives; summer holidays suggests these possibilities.
A lifetime of discoveries!
Aboard a giant killer jellyfish
Martha in Jelly makes discoveries beyond possibilities. She watches Petrified Pete attempt to escape the killer giant jellyfish upon which they and a post-apocalyptic community are captive. Consequently, she feels her need, and the potential to break away, grow. Is it possible to leave this Kraken that seems to sense the schemes of its inhabitants? What lies ashore, left broken by the travesty of humankind ignoring warnings of climate change and rising water levels?
Jelly by Clare Rees, alongside No One is Too Small to Make a Difference by Greta Thunberg
Darwin (and some ovis aries)
Mr Bookwagon was awed when he read Darwin: An Exceptional Voyage. Although we know something of Charles Darwin’s discoveries, we know little of his life, research, duration of his voyages, nor his extreme youth when he began his exploration.
Brenda is making culinary discoveries. Mint flavoured sauces are brewing. It seems like Brenda is preparing a thank you for the warmth of her welcome into the sheep community. She’s taught them archery, though attempts at tag have gone awry. Brenda is a Sheep, though a taller sheep than the others, with sharper teeth and a knitted woollen jumper…
Brenda is a Sheep by Morag Hood
Ahead of kd lang’s appearance in concert, I chatted with my neighbour who’d returned from interviewing Michael Sheen about his Homeless World Football Cup. His charity inspires me. Thereafter, I thought of Joe, and the message within a seemingly simple picture book The Extraordinary Gardener by Sam Boughton. Joe sees beyond the sterile hopelessness of a grey world, seeking something exceptional, which he creates through one seed of hope and community.
An extraordinary gardener!
Summertime hopes, seeds and discoveries
Seeds of hope, community and raspberries are sown in Freddie’s Amazing Bakery The Great Raspberry Mix-Up, Harriet Whitehorn’s introduction to a new early chapter book series. I love her deft characterisation and the creativity and charity evident in her lead character. What would he make with a new, improved cooker?
Miranda has never baked despite her recipe collection. Baking is but one of the activity she’d love to try with her mother. Yet her mother avoids any prospect of being close with Miranda. Moreover she rejects all opportunities to share her childhood, or support Miranda through her fears, including a paranoia about water. What discoveries might Miranda make when circumstances mean she must stay at her mother’s childhood home of August Island in The Secret Summer?
The Secret Summer by Ali Standish
From the familiar to the new in early chapter books
Bookwagon has worked determinedly to extend our range of superior early chapter books. We are overjoyed when sequels to much loved series appear, we are overjoyed. Recently, we have welcomed Hotel Flamingo Holiday Heatwave, Pigsticks and Harold and the Tuptown Thief, Rabbit & Bear: A Bite in the Night and King Dave Royalty for Beginners.
Mac B Kid Spy Mac Undercover, and Rabbit & Bear: A Bite in the Night
Alongside ‘Freddie’s Amazing Bakery The Great Raspberry Mix-Up’ we have introduced two new series. The first is another solo effort by one half of the acclaimed Barnett- Klassen writing partnership. Mac B. Kid Spy Mac Undercover sees the 1970’s Californian Game Boy- playing school boy take his first spy mission- for the Queen!
Lolo doesn’t have any missions. However she does have school, skipping, library books and twinkling pavement discoveries! We are delighted to discover Here Comes Lolo and Hooray for Lolo from South Africa.
Pigsticks and Harold and the Tuptown Thief, and Hooray for Lolo
At the London Book Fair, Mr Bookwagon and I pledged to select only the best books relevant to the 50th anniversary of the moon landings, recently celebrated. We delighted upon Pop-up Moon, discovered at that event. Thereafter, we applauded the launch of a superb poetry collection by Brian Moses and James Carter, Spaced Out. Recently, I alighted upon the story of the seamstress charged with designing and making the first garments to be worn by the Apollo 11 crew, in The Spacesuit.
The Spacesuit by Alison Donald & Ariel Landy
To infinity (with a book)
Bookwagon sells books we read and love only. When I am surrounded by mountains of TBR books I find it hard to maintain that pledge. Yet they are laden with discoveries. Two titles read recently transported, moved and overwhelmed me, like the very best books do.
I was reluctant to read Toby Ibbotson’s The Unexpected Find, for the reason that his mother was Eva Ibbotson. What a mistake. From the moment the storm hits town, to its revelatory conclusion, it seemed as though this book held me in its grasp. This is a parable for all readers; wise, joyful and moving.
How can a ‘Grease’ loving, old English sheepdog fearing, bacon afficionado hope to mend his family? Carlie Sorosniak’s I, Cosmo is an empathetic, funny, insightful, Sandy-fluffed story. It is glorious!
I, Cosmo, and The Unexpected Find
We hope you are making wonderful discoveries during your summer.
With our thanks, and warm reading wishes