Barrington Stoke Brilliance

Noodle the Doodle Wins the Day

  • Written by Jonathan Meres
  • Illustrated by Katy Hatford

This is the third title in the Noodle the Doodle series, and it is just as incredible as the previous two have! This one focuses on an alternative sports day for the class, and they come up with some fantastic new activities for them all to do, including balancing books on their heads, fast paced dressing up, frisbee throwing, and a final task of tug of war. It looks like it will be a fun filled day for all involved, and the children use all of their breaktimes to practice.

When sports day comes round the day starts of raining, and the children are deflated by the prospect of sports day being cancelled, and all of their training being in vain, but Mr Reed the class teacher promises the afternoon will be dry and sunny, and the weather does improve – making it possible for their plans to go ahead. There are some hilarious antics that interrupt the flow of things courtesy of Noodle, the class dog, but ultimately sports day is a success for everyone involved because throughout the various stages of planning, preparing, and taking part in this special day in the academic calendar, the children overcome personal hurdles that impact their self esteem, self confidence, ability to work together, and so much more besides.

This stunningly illustrated, short chapter, adventure with a school theme, is perfect because children will have familiarity with sports day, whether it be as a spectator or a competitor, and will therefore kind it easier to envisage the context of this book, and all whilst falling in love with Noodle, who you will find yourself besotted with before the end!

Birdsong

  • Written by Katya Balen, winner of the 2022 Carnegie Award Medal
  • Illustrated by Richard Johnson

This is such a beautifully written story that features a young girl, Annie, who is struggling to adjust following a car accident that has left her with physical, emotional, and mental scars that need time, patience, and the support of those around her in order to heal. The biggest adjustment for Annie post accident has been that of her love of playing the flute. Music has been in her blood from a young age, and she became a talented flute player as a consequence, with lots of academic promise, but she has lost her confidence in playing, and her arm injury has left her frustrated. That is until she happens to stumble across Noah and the Blackbirds, tucked away amongst brambles near her new home that her and her mum have recently moved to.

The birds are nesting, and sing their own song whilst doing so, and Annie feels inspired, and feels a wave of calm wash over her. With Noah offering her support and encouragement, and the birds inspiring her with their perseverance (and song) even as they face their own dangers, Annie finds herself drawn to her flute, and is once again writing music of her very own.

This is such a heartfelt journey of healing and rediscovery, told through Annie, which readers will find as emotive as they do inspiring. The parallel of the Blackbirds going from singing as they build their nest to song-less following an attack from a Fox, and yet persevering and ultimately prevailing, to that of Annie’s journey following the car accident she was injured in, isn’t lost on the reader, and resonates all the more so as a consequence.

I love the silhouetted style illustrations, as they compliment the story beautifully by offering a soft and gentle feel, and the use of light and shadow in the pictures not only captivates you, but visually works well at representing the struggles Annie feels, and the relevance to her rediscovering music, and the pleasure and escapism she welcomes from it too.

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