Tanuja Bocquet is the owner of Tell Me Their Story. Tanuja provides bespoke children’s book consultations to parents, helping them find the right books for their child, whether they are a reluctant reader, a voracious bookworm or looking to develop comprehension and vocabulary skills. The ultimate aim is to create a tribe of happy young readers, whether they are 7 or 17 years old.
Books have become such an important tool for wellbeing, particularly in lockdown. They offer our children a retreat from lockdown, an escape from social media and an opportunity for mindfulness.
Each month, Tanuja will recommend books that she hopes will spark your children’s imagination, inspire reflection and most of all bring them pleasure.
For Younger Readers (aged 6 to 8)
Thrust this brilliant book with three stories set in Nigeria into the hands of your younger reader and let them embrace Grandmummy’s unabashed humour and Tola’s feistiness. Tola is desperate to prove she can help her Grandmummy collect the shopping, fetch water and help the local tailor, even though she is small. The noise and rhythms of Lagos are simply evoked with prose easy enough for young readers to cope with. The black and white illustrations work perfectly. An insight into contemporary Nigerian life and a small pleasure.
Dick King-Smith was a farmer, teacher and a writer. His love of animals and his understanding of what children want to read shines through in this warm-hearted, charming tale of Babe, an orphaned piglet, who has ambitions to be the world’s very first sheep-pig. Brimful with the importance of being kind to others, making this a lovely book to share with younger readers.
Ibbotson was a gentle, kind writer who managed to capture the feelings of children with great understanding and warmth. Hal’s parents believe showering him with gifts and money, but not a lot of affection, is the best way to keep him happy. Actually, all he wants is a dog and to be loved. Hal’s ambition to achieve this and the adventures that follow are a joy to read. The story reminds us all of how it’s the simple things that matter, like love and understanding, making it a brilliant moral tale for these times. A more challenging read and the perfect book to read out loud with your younger reader.
For Confident Readers – Middlegrade Fiction (aged 8 to 12)
Lampie, is the daughter of a lighthouse keeper. She is, like most good heroines, determined and grumpy, but hugely likeable. Every evening she must light the lighthouse lantern for her father to warn ships away from the rocks. One stormy night, she runs out of matches and a ship is wrecked. Forced to leave her father, she is sent in disgrace to work as a maid at the Admiral’s Black House where it is rumoured a monster lives in the highest tower. What follows is a fairytale adventure complete with mermaids and pirates. The writing is beautiful and the characters are fully realised and believable.
Set against the Indian rebellion of 1857, this wonderful book unites an unlikely trio – Pin, an intelligent young Indian servant, Beatrice, a feisty Scottish orphan and Jacques, a talented French circus performer. Trapped in Agra fort, held under siege by Indian independence seeking rebels, this newly formed threesome, guided by the spirit of Dumas’ three musketeers, make a desperate bid to save Jacque’s beloved tiger, Tonton. It’s an action packed middle grade adventure drenched in friendship, courage and hope, filled with references to Indian mythology and religion. Fabulous reading.
Young Aya and her family are asylum seekers from Syria. As Aya waits to be seen by a caseworker in a community centre with the ‘smell of sadness’ in the air, she discovers a ballet class run in the same building. Aya’s talent captures the imagination of the head of the ballet school, and she is invited to try out for a prestigious ballet scholarship under her tutelage. It is a simple structure around which to hang beautiful, emotive storytelling, with wonderful light-filled characters. The tragedy of the migrant crisis is carefully dealt with and there are harrowing scenes reported in a series of flashbacks. However, this is also a book about pursuing dreams, defeating fear and remaining hopeful. Relentless in its call for compassion and tolerance – this is a great book to prompt discussion.
For Young Adult readers
The prequel to The Hate U Give, Angie Thomas’ powerful debut novel. This is the backstory of Maverick Carter – the son of a drug lord; the cousin of gang members and devoted young father to Seven. This is bold storytelling about Maverick’s attempts to beat expected social norms and look to a better life for his young family, free from drugs and gang violence. Thomas’ characteristic raw voice effortlessly pulls together so many important themes – the shock of teenage pregnancy, the devastating effects of peer pressure, black social mobility, drug wars and gang violence in 1980s America. There are also moments of humour, enlightenment and pure joy. Perfect for the reluctant older teen reader.
I was impressed by Tanya Landman’s superb retelling of Jane Eyre. Most teenagers will probably breathe a sigh of relief that it’s so short. The intensity of the narrative voice, the suspense, Jane’s resolute spirit and Rochester’s brooding presence are all still there but the prose is just tighter. Pithy, dramatic sentences and short chapters give scenes and interactions a clear beginning and end. Jane’s yearning for love, a sense of belonging and understanding simmers away throughout. Published by Barrington Stoke, who produce super-readable books by a brilliant range of well-known children’s authors, which are all dyslexia friendy too.
Hyder wrote this book after learning about the horrors faced by children in Victorian mines. The first person phonetic style takes some getting used to but this tricky dialect works perfectly. Persevere for a few chapters and you will be fully immersed into Newt’s dark world. It is a disturbing, often violent read but the general theme of the importance of good overcoming evil shines through. A terrific but challenging read.
Please do get in touch to join me for a bespoke Children’s Book Consultation. Whatever your child’s specific reading needs I am here to help.
Keep in touch with Tanuja at Tell Me Their Story