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!
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
Looking for meaning
The range and wealth of children’s poetry has been a delightful discovery for me. Since starting Bookwagon, I have sought to read and expand my knowledge of children’s poetry.
Poets are looking for meaning in their creations. The tweezer picked perfection and impact of their words create images and stimulate feelings. Poetry is a most accessible genre to children and adults. It offers children a chance to understand, word play, recall, recite and build a word relationship.
I found teaching poetry a direct, structured, liberating form of writing. Poetry invites us to write and read for meaning.
Young New Zealand poet Isabel Carmichael had been asked to consider the impression of war on a setting, when her class learned about Gallipoli:-
In one minute’s silence…..
Can you imagine the firing of the guns as the sky turns black from the bullets?
In one minute’s silence…..
Can you imagine people having a good day,
When suddenly people with guns come running onto the shore?
In one minute’s silence……
Can you imagine all of the diggers shooting at all of the other soldiers,
When they know that they are just as important as them?
In one minute’s silence……
Can you imagine all of the dead bodies lying on the floor from being shot…..
In one minute’s silence.
Bookwagon loves, recommends and sells this year’s CLiPPA poetry prize nominations’ list proudly.
Thinker My Puppy Poet and Me is an empathetic poetry diary between a new puppy and his boy master. They are looking for meaning in their relationship with each other and the world.
Dark Sky Park by Philip Gross is rare and tender and beautiful, recommended to nature loving families.
A Kid in My Class is essential school fare. Rachel Rooney’s dedicated examination of a classroom of children is raw, empathetic and recognisable.
School is the setting for Everything All At Once by Steven Camden. We travel through secondary school doors with an assembly of characters, keen to fit in, experience, not stand out, be themselves… if they knew who that might be. They are looking for meaning in alien worlds of adolescence and education.
A selection of CLiPPA nominees
Oxford Spires Academy
Oxford Spires Academy has won more poetry awards nationally, than any other title. Writer in residence, Kate Clanchy has compiled a selection of this school’s poems in an outstanding collection, England Poems from a School
Students speak more than thirty languages with more than fifty dialects. Yet there impressions of home, growing up, England and their future resonate with truth, longing and hope.
Rainbow over fields of barley, Oxfordshire
The meaning of words- Geordie style
My Geordie mother-in-law enjoyed opportunities to recall traditional words and phrases from South Shields. ‘Wey aye ‘man!’ as she agreed with something, ‘cannae’ offered in a stream of conversation for ‘can not’. Reminiscing about wartime dance floors, she would occasionally consider a ‘Bobby Dazzler’, or a ‘bonnie lass/ lad’ or her ‘marra’, Doris. Cheryl (Tweedy/ Cole/ Versini-Fernandez) delighted Helen, until she disappointed her. ‘I think she’s gotten above her station. She’s not a Geordie lass.’
Geordie lass and lingo
The meaning of words- Kiwi speak
Mr Bookwagon is beginning to understand the New Zealand art of understatement. A family member texted him after Watford F.C’s devastating loss in the FA Cup final- ‘No words mate’.
Nouns that tangle me still, include:-
- cling film- Glad Wrap (New Zealand)
- flip flops- jandals (New Zealand)
- tacky back plastic- contact (New Zealand)
- newsagent/ corner shop- dairy (New Zealand)
- Tippex- Twink (New Zealand)
- lolly- iceblock (New Zealand)
- plasters- Band Aids (New Zealand)
- kiwi*- kiwifruit (New Zealand) * – This one makes me very cross! A kiwi is our native New Zealand bird, and/ or a native New Zealander, not a hairy fruit.
Iceblock eating Kiwi
What writers do
Emma Carroll, best-selling, award-winning children’s writer explained Operation Mincemeat to a recent school audience. She explained its initiative and how this event in WWII developed into a story within When We Were Warriors. Emma shared how she is looking for meaning in her research and storytelling. Her research allows her to ‘be who she wanted to be’ and ‘create the stories she wanted’.
Asked for a top tip when writing, she advised, ‘Lose the adjectives. Give the words a chance to make a story.‘
Emma Carroll school visit
Kate DiCamillo- and how we read for meaning
Walker, Kate DiCamillo
Kate DiCamillo’s books are deceptively simple. Yet her words are laden with poignant meaning. We seek meaning in the context and our innate understanding to assume nuance, impulse and setting. Deckawoo Drive, her early chapter book series including Leroy Ninker Saddles Up, offers complex words and feelings.
Leroy Ninker lives a small life. His dreams of being a cowboy sustain him.
‘ A car drove by Look, Mama!’ a boy in the backseat of the car pointed at Leroy. ‘It’s a very tiny cowboy.’
Leroy stood up straighter.
‘I am a cowboy on his way to procure a horse,’ he said. ‘I am a man wrestling fate to the ground.’
Fate appears to conspire against Leroy, yet he does not buckle.
Leroy Ninker Saddles Up, Kate DiCamillo & Chris Van Dusen
Early chapter books
Bookwagon has hit the trail with a succession of author visits and popup book fairs recent weeks. I have spoken about children’s literature, also .
Bookwagon popup fair
Frequently, we are asked for recommendations about early chapter books, titles to bridge picture books and middle grade readers.
Bookwagon asserts picture books’ relevance to readers of all ages. Picture books offer an incomparably varied opportunity to readers looking for meaning. We are looking for meaning in the pictures of our daily lives; from babies, physical health, DIY, gardening, internet shopping, home interiors, to photographs. They are part and parcel of how we understand.
Early chapter books are a landing stage, however. To that end, Bookwagon has been working to extend our selection of ‘forever’ early chapter books, titles where the stories are interesting and meaningful.
A selection of early chapter books
We invite readers to click on our tag cloud to discover a unique selection. Remember! Every Bookwagon book has been read and loved by us. We only recommend and sell books we love. We are looking for meaning.
Words and meaning
A friend’s grandsons are being raised to speak three languages. They will hear, speak and read for meaning in these languages. My nephews are fluent in Japanese and English.
Bookwagon family readers
A difficult part of raising bi- lingual or tri-lingual families is unravelling the nuances of individual languages. A basic example of this is in national humours. Another is gestures. When we work to acquire another language we are looking for meaning beyond the words and phrases alone.
ESOL/ EAL experts recommend families speak and read to their children in the adults’ first language, but ‘share’, i.e., read books together, in the adults’ secondary languages.
Bookwagon is building a range of quality translated titles from around the world. The subtleties, subjects and construction of these works, even in translation, are different from English books. Reading translated books extends understanding for readers looking for meaning.
Across the oceans
Before an audience at the British library, children’s laureates Lauren Child and Sir Quentin Blake discussed how their different works hit problems in translation. Lauren Child shared the consternation of American publishers by ‘My Uncle is a Hunkle’.
“What’s a hunkle?” her publishers demanded.
“It’s word play,” she explained.
Looking for titles with determination
I am delighted when international titles we seek to share with our readers become available in Britain. Works by writers like Kate DiCamillo fly from the wagon into readers’ waiting hands. Recently, we’ve included unique early chapter/ graphic books by Canadian writer Ben Clanton- Narwhal Unicorn of the Sea!
Minh Lê and Dan Santat collaborated to form a glorious picture book about characters looking for meaning in their relationship in Drawn Together
Polly Horvath wrote ‘Everything You Need on a Waffle‘, a favourite title I read to classes. It is unavailable in Britain. I am very happy to welcome her most recent title, The Night Garden. The setting is Sooke, a little known, hidden treasure on Vancouver Island. We holidayed there before the giddy days of Bookwagon.
Some recent international titles
Further looking for meaning
Customers ask how the Bookwagon team maintain our pledge to sell books we’ve read and loved only. We are committed to knowing every book we sell. It means we recommend children’s books for your children confidently in person, by gift and online. It means that I am writing in a room covered in books seeking my readership. What bliss! Check out the latest titles rolling off this reader’s lap and onto a page soon!
RIP- Helen Mayho, Granny Bookwagon
In the basement of my grandparents’ house hung a shark’s jaw of teeth. My grandfather had captured the shark on one of his deep sea fishing adventures. I would touch the points of the teeth trepidatiously and wonder. Upstairs, in the sun room, stood a near fossilised swordfish’s sword. Today, it stands in my sister’s sitting room. I wonder if her family think about about the story of this item.
Grandad was a John Wayne/ Steve McQueen type of man. He survived Gallipoli. His bride nursed him before emigrating from genteel SW London for New Zealand’s untamed wilderness. Grandad broke that wilderness to create a sheep farm. Grandad was not an empathetic husband, father or grandfather. Yet I loved him when he sat me on his lap to tell me stories of whales and the oceans.
Forming the character
Like most of my mother’s family, I was terrified of my grandfather, aside from these times he would tell me stories. During these interludes, I felt close and able to build my own impression of him. I drank in the smell of Scotch and cigarettes. I felt the fabric of his shirt, the stretch of his braces. His sinewy arms, with their faded sailor tattoo, fascinated me. I saw the curl of his hair at the back of his head and compared it to my mother’s curls.
My grandmother was a storyteller. Her tales of childhood, her siblings, boarding school and nursing threaten to become a story one day.
A Room Full of Chocolate
Grandparents offer a wealth of storytelling potential. Jane Elson showed discord and misunderstanding between a parent and grandparent in her gripping A Room Full of Chocolate. One of Mr Bookwagon’s favourite titles, Hour of the Bees has the main character desperate for her grandfather to ‘tell me stories’ to make sense of her life.
Hour of the Bees
This week, we included A Witch Come True the third part of James Nicol’s warm- as- buttered- toast stories about Arianwyn aboard the wagon. I felt reassured whenever our main character’s grandmother was present. She enabled Arianwyn to confirm her instincts and role.
A Witch Come True
Stories recalled and left to tell
Alice Melvin created Grandma’s House, a lift-the-flap, picture book memoir of her grandmother’s home. This visit invites us to join her as she revisits nooks and crannies, mementoes and her grandmother’s history. Alice Melvin’s forever picture book tells me stories of love and familiarity.
When I Was a Child is a lyrical fantasy of memory and stories. Nostalgia for a golden age of wonder and possibilities is bridged by a greying sadness at the passing of time and a loss of hope. The child who picks up the story demonstrates empathy and positivism in her response to her elder. There is still wonder. Possibilities exist. The words and pictures are like a kaleidoscope of stardust.
When I Was a Child
My history, our history
At the turn of the twentieth century, dance and deportment teachers over sixty years of age were unlikely adventurers. Award-winning picture book maker Chris Van Allsburg recreates the story of Annie Taylor, the first person to ride a barrel over the Niagara Falls, in Queen of the Falls. I appreciate the dramatic way her story unfolds, from her ‘Eureka’ moment.
Queen of the Falls
Some years ago, I read Joseph O’Connor’s ‘Star of the Sea‘. A little way in, I realised the passage of Irish emigration described would have been similar to that taken by my great-grandmother and her parents. They travelled from the county of Leinster in the same year as that story. I smelled the ship, felt the fear, sadness and sense of possibility. The writer created a connection to someone I never met. There was a sense this long ago relative might tell me stories.
Stories that don’t measure up…
Maggie follows the most important rule of all, ‘Never go beyond the boundary.’ Her younger brother Trig urges her to ‘tell me stories’ of how the wanderers over the boundary attacked the Wetheral family. Her older brother, Jed, is an eldest, destined for heroism upon his fourteenth birthday. when he will head to fight The Quiet War. The Middler is a story of acceptance, honour and sacrifice. What happens when Maggie steps over the boundary and changes the stories of Fennis Wick?
Emmet and Caleb have little in common. One awakens early, while the other lies awake star gazing. One digs for nature or tinkers, while the other naps. We wonder at their friendship when they are such different characters. Yet Emmet and Caleb know and respect each other. Across a year, we view their friendship. This is an intelligent and heartfelt storytelling.
Emmett and Caleb
Reading Rocks South West
I caught some of writer Maz Evan’s presentation at Reading Rocks South West. Aside from her star-spinning Who Let the Gods Out? series, Maz teaches creative writing to children and writing. She recommends that writing is a ‘stew pot’ into which the first necessary ingredient is character. It makes sense.
When I read, I want to know the character. When I meet someone, I want to know the character. In sitting with my grandfather, or listening to my grandmother, I longed for them to tell me stories. Maggie, or Arianwyn, or Annie Taylor, or all the other wonderful characters whom I meet in reading every book we sell, tell me stories.
Annie Edson Taylor and barrel
Into the world
In the aftermath of the horrors of the terrorist attack in Christchurch, New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern offered the victims’ stories. She sought to recognise and respect them. Such action has provoked empathy and a sense that New Zealand, as a nation, might chorus, ‘We are one’.
Listening to, sharing and reading stories, builds knowledge and understanding of different characters within a tolerant and communicative society. What are your stories?