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Ask a Bookseller: Liz and Julie from Next Page Books

Bookshops are the very best places to go for book recommendations – and booksellers are the friendliest, most knowledgeable of readers!

Liz and Julie from Next Page Books in Hitchin have joined us to answer your questions and share their favourite picks.

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Next Page Books with the Gruffalo

What makes Next Page Books a great place to visit?

"Our children's bookshop, Next Page Books, is located at the bottom of Windmill Hill in the beautiful market town of Hitchin. The town is well known for its range of wonderful independent shops and we are proud to be one of them! We have a great selection of children's books and also a small adult offering for the parents/carers to choose from. Our specialism is Inclusivity and Diversity, particularly NeuroDiversity, and we aim to make our shop a welcoming community base for all. We particularly enjoy working with schools and community groups who might benefit from our specialist knowledge when expanding their own book collections and recommendations." Liz & Julie

What do you recommend for my autistic niece? She is 7 years old and I'd like to find a picture book or illustrated chapter book that represents girls like her. – Kathryn

We have a growing selection of books that represent autistic children, and it's been great to see recently the number that include an autistic female-lead character. Depending on your niece's preference and reading ability, she might enjoy these: Through the Eyes of Me written by Jon Roberts and illustrated by Hannah Rounding, a quietly powerful about the world of an autistic girl; Amazing Me, Amazing You written by Christine McGuinness (Autism ambassador) and illustrated by Hannah Jayne Lewin, which focuses on what works to support different needs, and inclusive of all; and Me and My Sister by Rose Robbins, which explores from a sibling perspective what is 'different' about their autistic sister and how she is supported.

As she gets older, there are even more fabulous options: A Different Sort of Normal by Abigail Balfe, Frankie's World by Aoife Dooley, Can You See Me? by Libby Scott and Rebecca Westcott, and A Kind of Spark by Elle McNicoll.

Amazing Me Amazing You by Christine McGuiness

I have trouble getting my son to read books. He does read things like Dog Man and has recently been advised by school he may be dyslexic, but my question is what books can I introduce him to help encourage more reading? – Jacqui

Firstly, we are great advocates of graphic novels – Dog Man, Cat Kid, The Investigators, Bunny Vs Monkey, Barb the Brave, Kitty Quest, and many more! Speaking as a primary school teacher and a SENCO (Special Educational Needs Co-ordinator), I am so in favour of this style of book which bridge a gap between picture books and chapter books for many children, particularly those who may be dyslexic.

There is another really good option for children who may be dyslexic, to try books from the publisher Barrington Stoke. These are written by well-known authors, are engaging stories and are all produced in a dyslexia-friendly font, on tinted paper, with additional spacing and with language chosen specifically to not be overcomplicated. The great thing about them, is that each book is given a reading age and an interest age – so children with a lower reading age, can still find a book that suits their actual age. Their books go right up to Teen interest level. Depending on your son's age, a couple of titles he might enjoy, which stick with humour and an animal theme are: Toad Attack written by Patrice Lawrence and illustrated by Becka Moor, The Day My Family Disappeared written by Jo Simmons and illustrated by Lee Cosgrove, and The Dog the Saved the World (Cup) written by Phil Earle and illustrated by Eliza Paganelli.

The Day my Family Disappeared by Jo Simmons

Are there any books/series you would recommend to get my class more into reading? For context, they are 7 years old and some of the boys in particular are struggling to stay motivated with the books we already have. Most of the children love adventure stories filled with action. Thank you! – Victoria

We know the difficulty there can be in getting children gripped by reading. However, there has never been a better time for younger children's fiction, so hopefully we can find something they love. Why don't you try a graphic novel? A series like Bumble and Snug by Mark Bradley, or InvestiGators by John Patrick Green are enticing and they could move on to the Mac B., Kid Spy series by Mac Barnett (illustrated by Mike Lowery) afterwards.

Two illustrated chapter book series we like for this age are Rudy and the Wolf Cub written by Paul Westmoreland and illustrated by George Ermos, and The Secret Explorers Club by SJ King – still with pictures but more text, a step up from the previous graphic novels.

Then finally a few longer stories perhaps to read aloud: the Grimwood series by Nadia Shireen, anarchic humour and animals! We have also enjoyed the hilarious Alien in the Jam Factory series from Chrissie Sains, illustrated by Jenny Taylor, and the Llama out Loud series from Annabelle Sami, illustrated by Allen Fatimaharan.

Rudy and the Wolf Club by Paul Westmoreland

Can you recommend any books about children with additional needs, specifically a story with a child in a wheelchair? I am a SENCO and feel strongly that the children with additional needs should feel represented in stories without it being about the need - just a happy coincidence that a character also happens to be in a wheelchair or deaf. Even better if there is diversity of ethnic backgrounds too. I realise I am asking a lot! – Jo

This is a great question, coming at a great time as the representation of children in wheelchairs and with other physical needs is increasing all the time. I am a trained SENCO and agree so strongly with your thoughts on incidental representation. I hope you love these as much as we do!

This selection of picture books has representation of young wheelchair users, and a realistic range of diverse characters: Omar the Bees and Me by Helen Mortimer, We're Off to Find a Unicorn series by Eloise White and Cory Reid, and Covered in Adventures by Gillian Hibbs.

For early chapter book readers, the following are fab: Major and Mynah written by Karen Owen and illustrated by Louise Forshaw (a young hearing aid user is the main character), and X-tinct! T-Rex Terror by Ash Stone (the main character's mum is a scientist and wheelchair user).

And finally for the older end of primary school, this fab bunch of books: Can You Feel the Noise? by Stewart Foster, The Secret of Haven Point by Lisette Auton, and The Amazing Edie Eckhart written by Rosie Jones and illustrated by Natalie Smillie.

Major and Mynah by Karen Owen

My 9-year-old loves book with LGBT characters, but I struggle finding ones that are appropriate for their age group. I’d love some recommendations please. – Gemma

For a 9+ child, Me, My Dad and the End of the Rainbow, written by Benjamin Dean and illustrated by Sandhya Prabhat, is a great story about Archie, whose mum and dad no longer live together. It shows gently how your family is always your family, even when your parents change, and has a great Pride celebration. I also love The Secret Sunshine Project by the same author and illustrator.

The Accidental Diary of B.U.G. by Jen Carney is a fun diary-style series for 7/8+. Billie lives with her two mums, which is incidental as the story mainly involves her getting up to all sorts with her school friends with hilarious consequences.

Jamie by L.D. Lapinski, just published in March, is a joyful and brave story about Jamie, who is non binary and in Year 6 at school, trying to work out their place in the world and navigate the change to secondary school.

Also recently published is Glitter Boy by Ian Eagleton, an 'own voices' story for 9+ about family, friends and accepting who you are. It includes bullying and resentment as the main character, James, questions his sexuality, but ultimately this is about being true to yourself and never giving up.

Jamie by LD Lapinski


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