Rebel of the Sands by Alwyn Hamilton: February’s Book of the Month in-depth – review and a writing activity adaptable for KS3-5

Age range: YA (12+) Themes: identity, diversity/ethnicity/race, protest & politics Genre: fantasy + western  Narrative style: first-person past tense with plenty of pace and an engaging voice with plenty of ‘sass’ and wit. It’s really easy to root for Amani as she tries desperately to escape her situation by dressing as a boy and entering a shooting […]

Introducing February’s Book of the Month: Rebel of the Sands by Alwyn Hamilton (including GCSE Language prep task on inference)

This fantasy YA novel opens a glorious trilogy (the final instalment has just published this week) exploring identity, loyalty and other eternal themes relating to the classic battles between good and evil. As with many other books I’ve recommended, I love and recommend this series for its genuine feminist principles – not just a ‘strong […]

Introducing December’s Book of the Month: The Sin Eater’s Daughter by Melinda Salisbury (including GCSE English Language practice task)

This YA novel is a fantasy with a large scope set in a beautifully-realised second world. It’s a great choice for contemporary teens, particularly as it’s written with a strong feminist sensibility. This includes some great examples of female community and relationships, as we move through the trilogy. Beautiful writing and themes of duty, sacrifice […]

Writing Myths and the Damage they Do

Writing is fraught with myths, many romanticised and some downright damaging.  It’s taken me a while to spot some of the dangerous ones, and I’m probably still in thrall to some others.  Here are a couple that I can mostly remember are, in fact, false.  And as an educated and mostly competent adult writer, if […]

The State of Grace Review and Lesson Ideas for KS3, GCSE and A Level Lang on Gender representation (Book of the Month in-depth)

Age Range: 12+ (according to publisher’s website; I would happily use this throughout the secondary school – plenty to engage older teens, nothing ‘unsuitable’ for yr7/8, although they will be less interested in the romance aspects) Themes: family, friends, being different, romance Narrative style and genre: Strong first-person narration plants you firmly in Grace’s world […]

Introducing November’s Book of the Month: The State of Grace by Rachael Lucas (including GCSE English Lang teaching idea)

This gorgeous YA novel, focusing on Grace’s normal teen issues, handled in her atypical way, is a brilliant #ownvoices look at Asperger’s. Grace’s way of engaging with the world is clearly filtered through the symptoms and differences she experiences and these are rendered crystal-clear for the reader right from the start. The plot deals with […]

A Change Is Gonna Come Review and GCSE Resources (Book of the Month In-Depth)

Age range: YA (12+) Themes: as this is an anthology, these are really varied, but include: love, sexuality, racism, islamophobia, bereavement, refugees, OCD, friendship, punishment, fantasy, time travel, fairness, identity. Narrative style and genre: again, varied by the story/poem – pretty much the full possible range is covered, with first and third person perspectives, present and […]

Three Ways to Sneak ‘Reading for Pleasure’ Recommendations into GCSE English Classes

This is a re-post of one of the few teaching-themed blogs I’d featured before the recent overhaul, so if you get a sense of deja-vu when reading, it’s not you, it’s me 🙂 I think (hope?) many of us can agree that GCSE set text lists do not inherently encourage students to become readers. By […]

Introducing September’s Book of the Month: YA BAME Anthology A Change is Gonna Come

This book is a superb introduction to a range of BAME writers working in the UK today. In this collection, they all tackle the theme of ‘change’ in short stories and poems for a Young Adult audience. The collection features many well-known authors such as Catherine Johnson, Patrice Lawrence and Nikesh Shukla, but the publishers […]

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