SLA's Friday Favourites (18/02) :: NEWS
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SLA's Friday Favourites (18/02)

18 February 2022 Share

Reading recommendations we think you'll love.

Title: Mark My Words

Author: Muhammad Khan

Publisher: Macmillan

Age: 13-16

Publication date: 17th February 2022

ISBN: 9781529029949

Reviewer: Dawn Woods




WHAT IS IT ABOUT?

Dua is a bright student in her final year before GCSEs. Because of building work in their school, Year 11 have been moved to a neighbouring school. But affluent, prestigious Minerva College on the West side of town is very different from the East side comprehensive of Bodley High.

On the first day of term an announcement is made about two vacancies on the Minerva Chronicle, which Dua is desperate to apply for as she has ambitions to become a journalist. However, the equally ambitious but privileged team on the Chronicle make their decisions based on friendships, not talent. Undeterred, she determines to start her own paper and gains permission and recruits a great team.

The closer relationship with the Minerva community opens the eyes of the Bodley High students to the difference in their lives. Every town has individuals taking drugs, but Minerva students are purchasing more and harder drugs, yet Bodley High students are blamed. Dua is determined to get to the bottom of it and expose the ringleaders. She hadn’t realised it would become quite as dangerous as it does, or the influence of those involved over students, the school and even the spending within the local community. But Dua wants truth and hypocrisy revealed.

Her home life becomes as complicated as the drugs situation as her Mum is having a breakdown because of problems at work, her Dad, who lives apart, is threatened at his shop, her best friend defects to the Minerva side for reasons Dua hadn’t thought through, and her attraction to Hugo, an alpha male at Minerva, is against everything Dua stands for, having previously been a very good Muslim girl where boyfriends are forbidden.


HOW DID READING IT MAKE YOU FEEL?

Life is unfair in what it deals us and those determined to do well have to work hard, often against biased opinion.


WHAT LASTING IMPRESSION DID IT HAVE?

Dua is very determined and exceptionally brave. Other great characters make this a compelling read. It is wonderful to read of empowering women making a difference when faced with the dilemma of leaving alone and getting on with mock exams, accepting the inequalities in life, or standing up and fighting.


WHY SHOULD OTHERS READ IT?

I am certainly not advocating not trusting anyone, but questioning motives - are they as altruistic as they may seem is an approach we teach students to adopt when looking at news headlines and can be used in other situations in everyday life.


HOW DO YOU SEE PEOPLE USING THIS BOOK?

This would generate great discussions on corruption and inequality.


MEET THE AUTHOR

Muhammad Khan is an engineer, a secondary-school maths teacher, and a YA author! He takes his inspiration from the children he teaches, as well as his own upbringing as a British-born Pakistani. He lives in South London and has an MA in Creative Writing from St Mary's.

Follow him on Twitter.

Available here


Title: The Hideaway

Author & Illustrator: Pam Smy

Publisher: Pavillion

Age: 13-16

Publication date: 9th September 2021

ISBN: 9781843654797

Reviewer: Dawn Woods




WHAT IS IT ABOUT?

Billy lives with his Mum and Stepdad, and although loved by his Mum and very happy when they were a pair, his Stepdad is angry and violent towards his Mum. Billy has planned an escape when things get too bad, which they do one cold, rainy night. He goes to the local graveyard which has an old World War pillbox for shelter.

The following morning he is spotted by an old man tending the graves who, in return for keeping quiet about Billy being there, asks for help tidying up.

Meanwhile, because of his Mum’s shift work and interruptions with school admin, Billy’s disappearance goes unnoticed until later the following night.

Despite Billy’s Stepdad’s dislike of police involvement, neighbours convince Billy’s Mum they need to be informed. They soon notice and uncover evidence of the domestic abuse she has been suffering.


HOW DID READING IT MAKE YOU FEEL?

This is a heartbreaking look at what goes on behind closed doors and parents hoping that their children don’t notice. The consequent helplessness of the smaller, younger child in the face of adults who are supposed to protect them is heartbreaking. Billy thought only one option was open to him, and that was to run away.


WHAT LASTING IMPRESSION DID IT HAVE?

Both Billy and the elderly gardener are grieving for better times when they were happy because other people made them so. But change happens and sometimes it is difficult to move on. Sometimes it is waiting for the connection with someone else, but often progress can be made by facing or knowing the truth.


WHY SHOULD OTHERS READ IT?

Although on a shocking subject of domestic abuse and bereavement, this book is aimed at secondary age children, but importantly does not include graphic content in words or pictures. It is what is not said which makes it more powerful.


HOW DO YOU SEE PEOPLE USING THIS BOOK?

Pam Smy is an artist and tells her stories using pictures. This book does have words, but so much is conveyed in the illustrations which are atmospheric and create that sense of place so the reader is there in the cemetery with Billy and the older gentleman.


MEET THE AUTHOR

Pam Smy has illustrated folktales, chapter books, nursery rhyme collections, picture books and novels. She has had 20 years of art school teaching and lecturing experience at Cambridge School of Art and, over this time, has developed an understanding of how to nurture creative process and work through ideas with illustrators. She has a passion for observational drawing and sketchbooks.

Follow her on Instagram and visit her website.

Available here