Some Recent Reads

I am lucky! Since beginning to write a book column in North of Scotland newspapers, I have been sent books! Actual, physical, lovely review copies, all in exchange for an honest opinion.

So I thought I’d round up a few faves from the last month or so. I genuinely enjoyed these. Check them out (if you’re that way minded):

Lily’s Just Fine, due for release July

Lily's Just Fine (Galloway Girls, #1)

Lily is a fabulous character. FABULOUS, I say, and exactly what Scotland needs. The author demonstrates very clearly that a small canvas of small town politics and hierarchies (rather than monsters, dragons, disasters and dystopian apocalypses which normally dominate teenage fiction) can be as vivid and memorable as a sweeping saga.
The key to its success is Lily: successful, pretty, confident, irreverent and utterly compelling. The genre might be romance, but there is plenty to occupy readers’ minds here: bigotry, materialism, chronic illness, mental health and school pressures are all explored. Alternating narrators can be predictable, but chapter transitions were handled with fluency and speed, just like thrillingly speedy racket exchanges over a net.
I very much look forward to the next Galloway Girls instalment. And I hope Lily’s voice takes centre-stage again!

Sonny and Me

Sonny and Me by Ross Sayers

I can’t think of another book like Sonny and Me. I spent decades teaching teenage boys in Scottish secondary schools and let me tell you: yes, this is how many of them speak, think and behave . Apart from the fact that this is authentic, funny and warm, it gives voice to those who may not always have a voice, certainly not in books. The friendship between the main characters is spot on and propelled me through the book from start to finish. Irreverent and provocative enough to appeal to teenagers, with enough issues /meaty topics to appeal to a more general readership. Fantastic follow up to Mary’s the Name. I’ll certainly be reading whatever Sayers writes next!

The Titanic Detective Agency

The Titanic Detective Agency
This is my favourite Lindsay Littleson book so far.
Even as a child, I had a mild fascination with the Titanic, reading and re-reading contemporary accounts, so it was a welcome surprise that the characters we most care about on the ship are based on real people, with photographs to inspect at the end of the book.
Bertha feels like the kind of kid you want to be friends with: opinionated, interested, charismatic and full of fun. She does, however, feel ‘real’ too, with her impatience with adult talk and church services lasting too long. The greatest strength of this novel is that Bertha’s childlike concerns are front and centre throughout. The horror of the sinking is not brushed over in any way, but the lingering memory of this read is of riddles and mysteries, chases and secrets – in short, of Berth’s concerns.
For any fellow teacher who may be concerned, this is a very sensitively handled account, with Bertha facing up to the horror of the sinking, but experiencing it from a distance in her lifeboat.
The period detail is meticulously researched, the characters utterly compelling and not a word is wasted.
This is the kind of children’s novel that would have got me into reading if I was a kid all over again. 🙂


BRAND-NEW FREE Kidlit Quiz for Teachers – with a Scottish Round!

Book Week Scotland is nearly upon us!kidlit quiz


Looking for an easy, ready-to-run kidlit quiz (PPT) with solutions (Word Doc)

It’s ideal for upper primary or even S1 and features questions on classic and contemporary children’s books, from picture books to motion picture adaptations.

This one has ten slides per round. I trialled it with 28 kids, split into groups of four. The full thing may take up to 1.5 or 2 hours, depending how much thinking time you allow. They really enjoyed it!

Here you go!

Kidlit Quiz 2018

Kidlit Quiz 2018 Solutions

How to run it:

  • A plain sheet with group name, round name and numbers down the side will suffice, and a clipboard definitely makes things easier.
  • I have found that kids stay most engaged if you give some answers throughout, rather than leaving a huge info-dump till the end. So, ask Rounds 1 and 2, offer answers/scores for Round 1, run Round 3, offer scores for Round 2 etc. But up to you really.
  • I think a break somewhere at the halfway stage helps!



The Ultimate Kidlit Quiz

Stuck for what to do with youngsters during #BookWeekScotland?

I devised this QUIZ (suitable for upper primary/lower secondary school) based on classic and recent children’s titles.

It takes around an hour and a half to run (it helps to have another adult in the room to help with marking!). From The Hungry Caterpillar to The Hunger Games, this quiz should be accessible to all, while still challenging the most devoted of bookworms! The quiz itself is in Powerpoint format, while the solutions are a simple Word document.

The Ultimate Kidlit Quiz

Ultimate Kidlit Quiz Solutions

There are eight rounds, with ten questions each.

I’d suggest handing each team of 4 pupils a sheet for each round. Get groups to think up a group name and nominate a scribe. After each round, collect them in and run through the answers (your helpers can mark the sheets) before issuing the paper for the next round. 

Have fun!



Merryn Glover’s India Books for Kids

When an author I greatly admire, Merryn Glover, talked about putting together a blog tour around the anniversary of the India/Pakistan partition, I jumped at the chance to be part of it. Some first hand recommendations of India books for kids? Yes please! Here is what she says:

I grew up in Nepal, India and Pakistan, so it was always important to me that my children – brought up in Scotland – had an understanding of that part of the world.  Along with my memories, photos, films and two special visits, I shared my love for those countries through books.  As August 15th this year marks the 70th Anniversary of India’s Independence, Barbara suggested I write a post about my favourite India books for kids and teens.  There are squillions of great titles out there, but these are the much-enjoyed books still on our shelves and available in the UK.  Listed roughly in order of reading age.


Image result for mangoes and bananas bookMangoes & Bananas, The Sacred Banana Leaf & The Great Race: Nathan Kumar Scott

Nathan Kumar Scott ( is an old school friend who has written a series of picture books based on Indian folk tales, each title drawing from a different form of folk art.  The results are exquisite books with enchanting stories.


Image result for One grain of riceOne Grain of Rice: Demi

This book was a gift to my sons from a former teacher of mine and is sub-titled “A Mathematical Folktale”.  It’s an adaptation of a traditional Indian story that uses a girl’s clever plan to explore both maths and morals.  It’s also beautifully illustrated in a style drawn from Moghul art.


Ancient Civilisations – Indian Myths: Shahrukh Husain & Bee Willey  This is a collection of tales from India’s rich store of mythology with vivid pictures and a helpful glossary.


Indian Tales, A Barefoot Collection: Shenaaz Nanji & Christopher Corr  “The trip of a lifetime!” the book announces and so it is, with brightly coloured maps, stories and information from eight regions in India and a long list of sources at the back.

Image result for Amazon the jungle books by rudyard kiplingThe Jungle Books: Rudyard Kipling – We all know the wonderful Disney film, but how many of us have ventured with Mowgli and his animal friends through the pages of Kipling’s books?  I can guarantee a wild time!


The Village by the Sea, Anita Desai  I taught this poignant story of poverty and courage to my S1 English class in India many moons ago and fell in love with it.  By a Booker prize-winning author, it is strong writing that will draw readers close to the characters and the dilemmas of their lives.


The Wheel of Surya, Jamila Gavin This is the first of a trilogy that begins with a brother and sister in India when their lives are splintered by Partition in 1947 and they end up on a boat to England.  I read it to my sons on a visit to India when they were 12 and 10, and we were captivated.  The other books in the series are The Eye of the Horse and The Track of the Wind


Malgudi Days, R K Narayan  I first discovered this glorious little collection of stories when I taught S4 pupils in Kathmandu and have returned to it many times since.  Short and deceptively simple, they are full of wisdom, humour and deep humanity.


Narayan said of India that ‘the writer has only to look out of the window to pick up a character and thereby a story.’  Which is good news for us, as we need only to dip into one of the many brilliant books from India to meet those characters and enter their stories.  Join me there!


Image result for a house called askival

Merryn Glover is a writer of fiction and plays with work widely anthologised and broadcast  on Radio Scotland and Radio 4.  She has also worked as an English, drama and dance teacher and currently spends two days a week in a high school library, loving the magic of bringing books and kids together. 

Her novel for adults (and intelligent older teens), A House Called Askival, is set in north India and spans 70 years of history, including the cataclysmic events of Independence and Partition.

Links: A House Called Askival