Welcome to RARING READERS, the Patron of Reading blog of Captain’s Close Primary School in Asfordby, Leicestershire. This is where
you’ll find the latest news on what I’m doing with the school and reviews of some brilliant books that I think you might enjoy.
It’s your blog as much as mine, so whether you’re a student, a teacher, a member of staff or a parent at the school, I’d love to hear
from you. You can put a message in the comments section beneath each post or, if you , you can write a guest post.

Monday, 31 July 2017

The Picture Book World Cup

Hi Captain's Close!

I hope you're having a great summer. I wrote the post below for the Picture Book Den blog, but, since it's about our Picture Book World Cup project, I thought I'd post a version here too!

The inspiration for the project came from Texas elementary school teacher Diane Fulton. Back in March, Diane sent me the tweet below to tell me that The Princess and the Pig, one of my picture books with illustrator Poly Bernatene, was in competition with 15 other books in her school's Sweet Sixteen Book Challenge.

The challenge was a knockout contest, where books were played off in pairings with students voting to decide the winner of each pairing. Diane kept me posted on The Princess and the Pig's progress via Twitter and I was delighted to see it get all the way to the final before its winning streak was finally interrupted by David Ezra Stein’s Interrupting Chicken.

It seemed like such a great idea that I decided to adapt it to use with my patron school.

Diane's wall chart reminded me of the progress charts that newspapers and magazines give out at the beginning of a football World Cup.

Diane’s Sweet Sixteen wall chart after the first round and a chart from the 2014 Football World Cup

So we called our version the Captain's Close Picture Book World Cup and I created this World Cup style progress chart to go with it.

Each class had a copy of this chart  to follow the contest's progress.

I firmly believe that picture books can be enjoyed by all ages – not just preschoolers and infants – and Captain's Close's Literacy Co-ordinator Lisa Gackowska and Headteacher Julia Hancock feel the same way. So we had the whole school vote in our contest, from Reception right the way up to Year 6. The initial groups were age-graded, so the Group 1 books, which were voted on by Reception class, were chosen to appeal to slightly younger readers than the Group 2 books which were voted on by Years 1 and 2. However, as the contest progressed, the age range voting on each match widened. So all of the Key Stage 1 students got to vote on the outcome of Semi-Final 1, while all of the Key Stage 2 Students voted on Semi-Final 2. And the whole school got to vote on the outcome of the final.

One of my aims as a Patron of Reading is to introduce reluctant readers to new books that they'll enjoy reading. Many reluctant readers prefer non-fiction to fiction, so the initial selection contained an equal number of non-fiction and fiction books, with each group starting out with both a non-fiction and a fiction match.

And – following the example of Diane’s US version – each of the initial matches had a different theme.

Group 2's non-fiction books were both about the Natural World and their fiction books had an Animal Antics theme.

I wanted to encourage students to stray off the beaten path a little, so I tried to avoid books by big name authors like Julia Donaldson (as much as I admire her work). And – to ensure impartiality – I didn’t include any of my own picture books.

I introduced all sixteen books in a special assembly at the beginning of the week. Once the voting had begun, students could follow the progress of all four groups on one of the wall charts, which were updated after each round.

The School's World Cup corridor display with a wall chart showing the progress of the contest.

After fourteen qualifying matches, the two books that made it all the way to the final were Oi Frog! by Kes Gray and Jim Field and Nuts in Space by Elys Dolan. You can see the results of each qualifying match in the filled in version of the chart below.

Here's how the chart looked before the final.

At the end of the week we had another special assembly to finish the contest. I started off by asking students if they had any favourite books that hadn't made it to the final and was pleased to discover that all of the books in the contest had found some new fans.

I’d been tweeting updates on the contest throughout the week and I showed the students some of the responses I’d received from the authors and illustrators of the competing books. You can read some of these tweets in a collection here.

Finalists Jim Field and Elys Dolan engaged in some pre-match banter on Twitter.

Then it was time to reveal the winner. The votes for the final had been collected by secret ballot and  – to string out the suspense – I announced the results a class at a time. It was a close run contest, with the lead shifting from one book to the other as the votes were counted in. Both books had enthusiastic supporters who broke out into excited cheering whenever their book pulled ahead. I've never had to ask a school audience to settle down so many times!

I'd ordered the results so that it wasn’t clear which book was going to win until the votes from the very last class were counted in.

Sparrows Class were the last to have their votes counted in.

But in the end, the winner, by 84 votes to 73 was …

… Nuts In Space, by Elys Dolan!

Congratulations to Commander Moose and his crew for boldly going all the way to World Cup glory and to Elys Dolan for creating such a wonderful book!

My three year tenure as Captain Close’s Patron of Reading ends this term and the Picture Book World Cup was a great way for me to sign off. So I’d like to give a big THANK YOU to Diane Fulton for letting me steal her idea and another big THANK YOU to Literacy Co-ordinator Lisa Gackowska for doing such a great job of refereeing the project in school.

Saturday, 17 December 2016

Christmas Newsletter

Hi Captain's Close!

I hope you had a great term and have an even better Christmas holiday.

You should have got a copy of the Raring Readers newsletter at the end of term. If you didn't – or have used it as wrapping paper – you can download another copy by clicking on the image below!

I'm looking forward to seeing you again in 2017. In the meantime, have a


Sunday, 26 June 2016

PRINCE RIBBIT Project and The Big Friendly Read

Alex's characterful cover for the Captain's Close edition of Prince Ribbit
with Poly Bernatene's cover for the actual book.

Hi Captain's Close!

I hope you enjoyed illustrating Prince Ribbit last week. I certainly enjoyed looking through all of your wonderful artwork.

The covers designs for the six class editions.

I could see that a lot of thought had gone into character drawings and spread designs and there was some clever use of typesetting from some of the older classes.

The Robins Class edition

I had a hard time choosing just 17 pieces for the school edition …

Me with the 17 illustrators of the school edition

… and illustrator Poly Bernatene had an even harder time picking just one favourite spread.
Congratulations to Scarlett from Robins Class for being Poly’s favourite illustrator!

Poly chose this spread by Scarlett as his favourite 

Click here to see the whole school edition and download your own copy

The Big Friendly Read

Don't forget to go along to Melton Mowbray Library from Saturday 9th of July to sign up for The Big Friendly Read.  You can find out more about it at The Big Friendly Read Web Site.

And have you got you read the Raring Readers Summer Newsletter yet?

Sunday, 7 June 2015

Treasure Hunts and Book Dragons

Hi Captain's Close!

I really enjoyed visiting the school again last Friday. I hope you had a fun day too.

A big thank you to all the school council members who helped to get the day off to a great start with our performance of Here Be Monsters in morning assembly. I especially liked the growly voices some of you did for Captain Cut-Throat.

The rest of the morning was spent doing the book-themed treasure hunts. Miss G and I had talked about doing the treasure hunts outside if the weather was good (which, thankfully, it was), but it wasn’t until we started putting the clues out that I realised what lovely big school grounds you have.

One of the Key Stage 2 treasure hunt clues. Did you work out which book to look for next?

Some of the clues ended up being quite far apart and by the time you’d finished the hunt you had all exercised your legs as much as your minds! Well done for finding so many of the clues - especially those of you that managed to find the letters in the right order.

This Key Stage 1 clue, stuck to the back of the storyteller's
chair, was particularly hard to find.

I spent some of my lunchtime reading Walter the Super Chicken, the very funny picture book written and illustrated by Jack, that I talked about in afternoon assembly. I was very proud to see the words “Inspired by Jonathan Emmett” on the front cover. I wish I had taken some photos of it. If someone can send me a couple, I can add them to this blog post.

I spent the afternoon building the cardboard book dragon, with the help of some of the children of Key Stage 1.

I practised by making this small dragon first.

Key Stage 1 helped me make the full sized version

Here’s the finished dragon sitting in the hall. Miss G wanted to put it in the library, but it was too big to fit through the library door!

The finished dragon – but what is its name?

I can’t wait to see what it looks like when it’s covered in all your “page scales”. And it needs a name! What do you think it should be called? I think it’s probably a she.

If you borrow a book from the school library don’t forget to fill in one of the book review slips that I showed you in afternoon assembly, so that you can let other readers know what you thought of if. It would be interesting to see which books get the most 5 star reviews.

Do keep sending me your Rapid Review videos. And, if you’re read any of the books already featured in a Rapid Review, don’t forget to post a comment to let everyone know what YOU thought of it. You can see all the review videos, including my latest video, about Holes by Louis Sachar, by clicking HERE or on the “Rapid Reviews” link on the right of this blog. And if you want to write or draw something about a favourite book, don’t forget that you can send that to me as well!

I had a good look at all the wonderful work on the Patron of Reading display in the hall and was particularly impressed by the writing and illustrations you’d done showing how Asfordby and Melton might be converted into Mortal Engines style traction town. 

Some of your wonderful Mortal Engines World Book Day work
One of your traction town designs

I tweeted some photos of your work to Mortal Engines' author Philip Reeve which he retweeted with the ominous words “AND SO IT BEGINS...”.

Perhaps the next time I see you, instead of me driving to Asfordby, the whole of Asfordby will be driving to me!

Thursday, 4 June 2015

HOLES • Rapid Review by Jonathan

My second rapid review is of Holes, a novel by American author Louis Sachar.

You can find out more about this book on this page of Louis Sachar's web site.

Holes is not just one of my favourite children's books – it's one of my favourite books written for readers of any age. Miss G is going to get some copies for the school, so I hope that lots of you will want to read them.

If you've read it, let me know what you think of it – good or bad – by leaving a comment on this post.

Sunday, 15 March 2015

WHAT FRIENDS DO BEST • Rapid Review by Chaffinches Class

Chaffinches Class got together to make this Rapid Review of WHAT FRIENDS DO BEST illustrated by Nathan Reed and written by me!

Thanks, Chaffinches. It's lovely to see one of my own stories reviewed and I'm delighted to hear that so many of you enjoyed reading it.

I'm also pleased to hear that some of you like building things. I love building things and I was thinking about myself a little when I wrote Winston's character.

If anyone else has read this book, I'd love to know what they thought of it. And if you didn't like it, don't be afraid to say so – although I'd be interested to hear why!

CLICK HERE to read or leave comments on this book.

Thursday, 5 March 2015

THE BFG • Rapid Review by Grace

Grace made this Rapid Review of THE BFG written by Roald Dahl and illustrated by Quentin Blake.

Thanks Grace! You said that you the story pulled you into it, so that it felt like you were there. That's a great description – and something that many good books can do!

I grew up reading Roald Dahl's books. I think my favourite is Fantastic Mr Fox. I wonder if anyone at Captain's Close has read that.

You can find out lots more about The BFG on this page of the Roald Dahl web site.

And here's a video of David Walliams reading some of the book.

Have you read The BFG? If you have, what did YOU think of it?

CLICK HERE to read or leave comments