Lockdown Librarian

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Our resident blogger Emma O’Brien reflects on the similarities between lockdown and military family life, AND shares the best books to escape with, books for a good cry and a good laugh, and comfort reads…

Hello Reading Force families! I’m Emma, a Pad Brat and school librarian and I write a regular blog here about reading and Forces life.

What a unique year 2020 has been so far! Currently I, like so many others, am still in lockdown working from home in my role as school librarian, planning for our adaptation to our ‘new normal’ (Click and Collect, Quarantining Books, Social Distancing – lots to think about!).

Whilst planning for this, I often think about the effects of the pandemic on young people. Do they miss their friends? Does it scare them when people wear masks? How have they been coping throughout lockdown? I often think about Forces children.

As someone from a military background myself, in some ways the lockdown does not seem that unfamiliar. Being separated from loved ones (be it family or friends) is a regular occurrence for us Forces children as we move from school to school, country to country; away from grandparents, uncles, aunties and cousins; changing our friendship circles; having parents away from us from extended periods of time; adjusting to a new normal. In many ways, we are more resilient and prepared than the “civvy” world for this challenge.

That’s not to say we have it easier, it’s still an incredible challenge for everyone – but I do have a ray of hope for all the Forces children out there that, if nothing else, when all this is over and we go back to our regular lives, maybe other people will have more of an empathy for what we go through now that they have had an insight into our experiences.

Another great way to get insights into other people’s experiences is by reading! No matter what the ups and downs of life, the familiarity of books is always there to support us. Diana Gerald, the CEO of Booktrust said: “Having the right book at the right time might just change a child’s life.” I feel this quote is so pertinent to today’s times where we need books more than ever – books to transport us when we can’t escape, books to make us feel – either to cry along with a sad story, or distract us with a happy story, books to comfort us like a hug of paper and ink.

With this in mind, here is my list of lockdown reads for whatever you need a book to help you with:

Books to escape with:

Rain Before Rainbows by Smriti Halls

This book is a free e-book gorgeously illustrated by David Litchfield will transport you to a fantasy world showing that if you want a rainbow then you have to put up with a little rain.

Journey to the River Sea by Eva Ibbotson

Orphaned Maia is sent to greedy relatives in the Amazon who have only offered to take her in for the sake of her money. Luckily she is accompanied by her gutsy governess and together they find freedom in the glorious setting of the rainforest.

Strange the Dreamer by Laini Taylor

An epic fantasy that will transport you to a world of dreams and adventure.

Books for a good cry:

It’s a No Money Day by Kate Milner

A gentle and poignant picture book that deals with poverty and foodbanks.

Once by Morris Gleitzman

I recommended this book to a Year 8 reluctant reader. He reached the end during a library lesson and cried. I was concerned his friends may mock him, but they didn’t. They comforted him and it was so lovely to see them supporting each other over the emotions that a book can bring. At the end of the lesson I suggested the boy read a different, more light hearted book for a while but he insisted on reading the rest of the series!

The Places I’ve Cried in Public by Holly Bourne

This book is very much for older readers (16+) with some quite harrowing scenes but it will certainly make you feel things and understand the warning signs of living in a controlling relationship.

Books for a good laugh:

The Book with no Pictures by B J Novak

This hilarious readaloud is impossible to laugh at, even as an adult!

Angus, Thongs & Perfect Snogging by Louise Rennison

Georgia’s diary deals with school, friendship, boys and a very embarrassing family! Plenty of laughs.

The Gifted, the Talented and ME by William Sutcliffe

This book has been described as the Adrian Mole for Millennials. A hilarious read for older teens!

Books to be comforted by:

Winnie the Pooh by A A Milne

Any book with a bear is a true comfort.

I Capture the Castle by Dodie Smith

Dodie Smith wrote this book during the Second World War whilst living in California and wishing for more comforting times.

Sky Painted Gold by Laura Wood

Wood’s story transports the reader to the summer of 1929. You can’t fail to be comforted by the glamour of the Roaring Twenties and the wonderful moral of the story about learning to be yourself because you are more than enough.