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Created: 17th June, 2022

Each month CLPE's Librarian, Phoebe Demeger, will reveal some of her favourite books she has recently added to our Literacy Library.

Discover May's below: 


On My Papa’s Shoulders (Otter-Barry, £12.99, 5/5/22) is a sweetly relatable picturebook with a distinctly South African urban setting, from the author of the Lolo chapter books. A little boy is walked to school by various members of his family, but it’s the days when his father carries him on his shoulders that he likes the best. A perfect read for Father’s Day.

With bright, collage-style illustrations, the narrator of From My Window (Barefoot Books, £7.99, 15/3/20) describes the scenery and community of his favela. He is often depicted with pen and paper, recording his observations, as life bustles around him. The book closes by asking the reader “What do you see from your window?”, inviting children to consider their own environments, as well as encouraging study of life in Brazil.

First published in 2006, Not a Box (HarperCollins, £6.99, 5/5/08) is an ode to the imagination, and all the fun that can be had playing with an empty cardboard box. In this formally innovative book, red line drawings overlay the base black drawings as a little rabbit becomes a racecar driver, a mountaineer, and much more; even the front and back cover mimic the design of a box. A suitable companion for the CLPE Corebook Ruby’s Sword: /books/book/rubys-sword.

For fans of Errol’s Garden (/books/book/errols-garden), Oscar’s Tower of Flowers (Walker, £7.99, 2/6/22) is an enchanting wordless picturebook from Lauren Tobia, the illustrator of Atinuke’s Anna Hibiscus. Missing his mum, young Oscar begins to grow seeds in his high-rise flat, which grow into plants, which he shares with his neighbours. A gorgeous tale of togetherness, community and nature – look out for a cameo from Lauren’s own Bristol-based plant shop Little Green in the illustrations.



Evocative watercolour illustrations from Gracey Zhang accompany the fabelic text of The Upside Down Hat (Chronicle, £12.99, 14/4/22) by Stephen Barr. A boy wakes up to discover that all of his belongings have disappeared, apart from his hat; as he journeys, he discovers how many uses a simple hat can have. Has all the makings of a modern classic.

Another folktale-inspired creation comes from Laura Nsafou and debut illustrator Amélie-Anne Calmo, translated by Ros Schwartz. Fadya and the Song of the River (Tate Publishing, £12.99, 7/7/22) draws inspiration from African folklore, and tells of a group of travelling magical women offering help to those who need it – the youngest, Fadya, must prove herself by appeasing an angry river goddess. With vibrant illustrations, and a message of creativity and serving your community.

From Greystone Kids – a new imprint launched in 2022 – comes Wildflower (Greystone Kids, £12.99, 26/5/22). Starring a cast of anthropomorphic flowers, illustrated by Sara Gillingham, this book challenges preconceptions of weeds and shows that everyone has a place and a purpose. At once an ode to belonging and a botanical primer. Closes with a glossary and a note from author Melanie Brown on the importance of weeds.

The latest collaboration between award-winning poet Joseph Coelho and illustrator Daniel Gray-Barnett, Smile Out Loud (Wide Eyed Editions, £12.99, 10/5/22) is an exuberant collection in picturebook format. Playfulness and interaction is built into the book’s design; the poems’ introductions – and sometimes the text of the poems themselves – incorporate suggestions of performance and writing techniques.


Lower KS2:

Keeper of the Light (Cameron Kids, £13.99, 26/5/22), in a selection of fictionalised, illustrated diary entries, tells of a few years in the life of Juliet Fish Nichols, a lighthouse-keeper in San Francisco Bay in the early 1900s. Each diary entry opens with a shipping forecast, rendering the sea and the weather inextricable from Juliet’s daily life. A closing fact file gives additional information about Judith, her lighthouse and the surrounding area.

A new series from b small publishing reveals the hidden world of STEM integral to our everyday lives. We Use Science (b small, £7.99, 1/4/22) and We Use Maths (b small, £7.99, 1/4/22) showcase twelve jobs each and explore how they incorporate science and maths skills – a hairstylist’s knowledge of chemical reactions, a football coach’s use of statistics and probability to power their strategies, and many more. Each title is fully illustrated, and closes with a glossary.

Two picturebooks from acclaimed author Patrice Lawrence explore Black history from two distinct angles. Our Story Starts in Africa (Magic Cat, £12.99, 18/8/22) follows a young girl listening to her Tante Janet’s empowering stories about the history of life in Africa, and the rich and varied heritage of the continent. Meanwhile, in Granny Came Here on the Empire Windrush (Nosy Crow, £7.99, 5/5/22), young Ava listens to her grandmother’s stories of inspirational black women, but it’s when Granny recounts her own story of emigrating to England and setting up a brand-new life, that Ava realises the incredible histories that reside within her own family.


Upper KS2:

The Biggest Footprint (Canongate, £14.99, 30/9/2) is a unique approach to representing the scale of humanity’s impact on planet Earth. All of Earth’s humans are “smooshed” together to form one mega-human, in order to illustrate the extent of the resources humanity consumes – a 1.8km-wide beef burger, a 35km-tall tree, felled by deforestation, and so on. Thought-provoking, and surprisingly witty.

The first book in a new Afrofuturist series, Onyeka and the Academy of the Sun (Simon & Schuster, £7.99, 9/6/22) is a cinematic adventure starring a British-Nigerian girl who discovers that her Afro hair has psychokinetic powers, making her a superhero. Onyeka must confront this new identity and navigate new friendships and responsibilities, in this richly imagined science-fiction world.

From David Almond, the author of Skellig and The Tale of Angelino Brown, comes the incredible Brand New Boy (Walker, £7.99, 3/2/22). In a deceptively simple premise, a new boy joins a new school, but he is not what he seems... His classmates are determined to figure out what makes him different, but in doing so discover they are more alike than they ever would have thought. Deeply empathetic and moving.

Finally, two graphic novel recommendations:

  • Cece Bell’s semi-autobiographical El Deafo (Abrams, £10.99, 1/9/14) chronicles the ups and downs of a childhood marked with a diagnosis of sudden hearing loss. In order to help her navigate friendships, relationships, and complex emotions, Cece secretly conceptualises herself as a superhero – the titular ‘El Deafo’ – and slowly learns self-acceptance. The book has since been adapted into a TV miniseries.
  • Alte Zachen (Old Things) (Cicada, £16.99, 28/4/22) follows Benji and his Bubbe Rosa as they navigate New York City and its changing streets, their generational divide, and Bubbe’s memories of Jewish identity, community and history. A powerful and affecting story from author and publisher Ziggy Hanaor, with atmospheric illustrations from Benjamin Phillips – notably, Benjamin illustrates the modern-day scenes in greyscale, while Bubbe’s memories are brought to life in full colour.


To find out more about the books featured in CLPE’s Literacy Library, discover CLPE's Corebooks List...

For more recommendations from our Librarian, discover CLPE booklists which are available to download for free from our website and act as a handy support guide to teachers looking to develop activities around key themes in the National Curriculum.