With You Every Step – Rob Burrows and Kevin Sinfield

The friendship shared by, former Rugby League players, Rob and Kevin is the inspiration and heart of this book. Their story of overcoming adversity with love and support is inspirational.

With You Every Step isn’t a novel, but rather a collection of phrases, thoughts and words of wisdom about friendship that are perfect to share with children. It’s a lovely book to return to at anytime but particularly when discussing what healthy and positive relationships can look like.

The messages within the book are brilliantly depicted by a collection of some of the finest illustrators working today. Rib Biddulph, Reggie Brown, David Litchfield, Gill Smith and Sam Usher all have worked featured.

Discover more brilliant books for Key Stage 2 children here…

Mr Gum and the Power Crystals – Andy Stanton

I think this could be my favourite Mr Gum book. There are some wonderfully silly and funny moments and it features Old Granny who has a sneaky fondness for sherry, teaches everyone about the old ways and gives this particular reader a chance to show off a wonderful impression of an octogenarian from the West Country.

After finding the Power Crystals, Polly discovers that they have magical powers and want to cause harm to her beloved Lamonic Bibber. She is desperate to not them fall into the hands of Mr Gum and Billy William, but she is powerless to stop the inevitable. As ever though, her band of friends come together to save the day in this dramatic, heart-warming and very funny story.

Bella, age 8, says: “I liked it because it’s really funny, especially when all the chapters are the same from 3-11. I liked that joke.

My favourite characters are: Barcelona Jim because all he says is HEE-HAW and I like the donkey-ness of him; Friday because he used his teeth to pull on the rope and Mrs Lovely said, ‘good boy’ and fed sugar lumps into his mouth; and Polly is great because she’s the main character. She finds the stones and goes on a wild adventure with them. I like the accent that my dad does for her and I like that she always tries to do the right thing even when she could do bad stuff.”

Tom, age 8, says: “It’s really funny. My favourite bit is when Old Granny tells Polly about what Mr Gum is going to do so that Polly can try and stop them. My favourite character is Polly because she is so brave when she faces up against Mr Gum, Billy William and Nicolas De Twinklecakes. I was a bit worried when it sounded like Lamonic Bibber was going to burn and burn, but it was ok in the end.”

Mr Gum and the Power Crystals also has the funniest collection of chapters in any series of books. See Chapters 3-11.

Discover more brilliant books for Key Stage 2 children here…

Discover more brilliant books by Andy Stanton here…

Havant and Waterlooville VS Tonbridge Angels – 9.3.24

Setting the Scene

The Hawks are second from bottom and running out of games to turn it around. They won the last match and were looking to make it two in a row against Tonbridge Angels. Earlier in the season, however, against the same opponents, the match finished 4-1 to the Angels in the reverse fixture.

The Line-ups

Havant & Waterlooville: Worner (GK), Stanley, Innocent, McNerney, McCarthy (C), Carlyle, Seager, Jewitt-White, Kealy (Deacon 45’), Whittingham (Jebb 45’), Roberts

Tonbridge Angels: Henly (GK), Fielding, Lyons-Foster (C) (Gard, 45’), Higgs, Odokonyero (Popoola 86’), Hinds, Dabre, Sutcliffe, Shields, Vincent, Hanson

First Half

It was a bit of a scrappy start with lots of high balls and not many players able to control the ball on the ground, they mostly headed it instead. Tonbridge took an early lead with Tariq Hinds chipping helpless goalkeeper, Ross Worner, after just six minutes. Quarter of an hour in and it was 1-1 after the pressing paid off for the Hawks. Jake McCarthy was in the action with a shot firing to the back of the net.

On 25 minutes, Ryan Seager, The Hawks’ main man up front, turns in a well placed cross from the right wing. 2-1!

Moments later, James Roberts breaks free down the left and the header from his cross was glanced narrowly wide. Havant were on top and looking to extend their lead.

A few minutes later, Tonbridge had a good chance and when the ball got chipped towards the box, McNerney, the Hawks centre half, attempted to clear the ball and, by doing this, inadvertently cleared the ball with a shot on his own goal, with Hawks’ ‘keeper, Worner, saving the shot with a quick reaction leap.

Half Time: Havant and Waterlooville 2-1 Tonbridge Angels

At half-time, I got myself a 25th anniversary edition Havant and Waterlooville 3rd kit, which is a dark blue colour and really nice. We also got The Hawky Porky from the food van. It’s chips covered in pulled pork, BBQ sauce, crispy onions and cheese and you have to get one if you ever go to a match at Havant. So good.

Second Half

Havant brought on Roarie Deacon and Jack Jebb for Callum Kealy and Alfy Whittingham at half-time to take further control of the game, but I think that it’s safe to say that the plan quickly backfired.

Mohammed Dabre made it 2-2 with a fine finish from 30 yards out 5 minutes into the second half. This forced Havant to try and regain control of the game. The majority of the crowd were Havant supporters but there were a group of Tonbridge fans who’d brought a drum along with them, which they banged quite a lot, singing different songs and they got particularly excited when Dabre scored.

The 25 minutes that then followed were mainly controlled by Havant, with a couple of Tonbridge counter attacks, but still no goals for either side.

Jake McCarthy had a rasping shot tipped over by the Tonbridge ‘keeper on 75 minutes after lots of Hawks’ pressure and attempts on the Angels’ goal.

It was fairly even for much of the second half after the Tonbridge equaliser but there was some good link up play between Deacon and Stanley down the right hand side for the Hawks during that time.

Harry Jewitt-White was tidy in the middle of the park, throughout and looked composed on the ball. Surely a career at a higher level is ahead of this loanee from Portsmouth.

Full time: Havant and Waterlooville 2-2 Tonbridge Angels

The game ended as a draw which isn’t much good to Havant who are still 10 points from safety with 10 games to go.

Player Ratings

Worner (GK) 8, Stanley 8, Innocent 8, McNerney 7, McCarthy (C) 9, Carlyle 8, Seager 9, Jewitt-White 9, Kealy 7 (Deacon 45’), Whittingham 7 (Jebb 45’), Roberts 8

My Player of the Match was Jake McCarthy who scored Havant’s opener and made a couple of other good chances.

Thank you…

A big thank you to Ellie from the Commercial and Events team who made sure we were well looked after during the match.

Find all of my previous match reports here.

The Havant players celebrate their second goal.

The Final Year – Matt Goodfellow

This book is a must read for all year 6 teachers and children. It’s a very modern classic and, after teacher/education social media went crazy for it in the autumn of 2023, we had to get a copy.

The Final Year is all about the final year of primary school and touches on all of the big events that 10/11 year olds go through. The residential, SATs, transition day, the leavers assembly and much more besides. These are all covered from Nate’s perspective and written as short poems.

Nate has a fairly challenging life and experiences some pretty tough events through the year, but with the help of his friends, family and excellent teacher (Mr Joshua) he gets through it all, learning and growing along the way.

This book has been pretty well hyped but, it turns out, with good reasons. We both really enjoyed it and related to much of what Nate was experiencing (broadly speaking). It’s well worth reading with your Year 6 classes and it’s handily pretty quick as well. Perfect.

Tom aged 10 says… I like that it’s all about the final year of primary school and the transition in to secondary school because that’s what I’m going through right now. It’s written like a diary entry with poems and I’ve never read a book like it before. The main character, Nate, is the eldest of three, and loads of really hard events happen to him, like when Dylan, his youngest brother, has a heart problem and goes unconscious for a while. Also, at the start of the year, he loses his best friend PS to Turner, the class bully, which is really quite difficult for Nate to swallow. Overall I’ve really enjoyed the book, so much so that I’ve given a copy to my teacher and he’s going to read it with the class.

Discover more brilliant books for Key Stage 2 children here…

The Invention of Hugo Cabret – Brian Selznick

The Invention of Hugo Cabret is a novel come picture book come graphic novel come historical fiction. It’s inspired by the films of early French cinema pioneer, Georges Méliès, and he (and some real aspects of his life story) features in the book.

After Hugo loses his father to a fire, he goes to live with his uncle at a train station, where his job is to keep all of the clocks at the station running to the correct time. The uncle goes missing and Hugo keeps the clocks running on his own by sneaking around the station, evading the attention of the station master so he doesn’t become homeless. The novel is the story of how Hugo restores an old machine that his father had previously worked on and discovers the secrets that it holds.

The Invention of Hugo Cabret is a beautifully illustrated book with the hundred of pictures helping to tell the story. It’s a really intriguing mystery with loads of twists and turns along the way and we really enjoyed making predictions about what was going to happen.

I’m not entirely sure if the invention the title refers to is the mechanical device that he salvages and mends, the magician he becomes or simply Hugo himself. I guess it could be all of them.

Tom aged 10 says… I really liked this book. I enjoyed the adventure side of it and the mystery of what was going to happen and everything that Hugo had to go through. I also liked that it was recounting things that happened in real life. My favourite part was when it all cam together and the automaton drew the picture and signed the name. My favourite character has to be Hugo because he’s a good engineer and he’s clever in what he decides to do.

The Amazing Edie Eckhart – Rosie Jones

The Amazing Edie Eckhart – Rosie Jones

I’m not normally one for celebrity authors. I rather like authors that got really good at being authors before having their books published rather than ones who got good at being celebrity panellist before being offered massive book deals. But Rosie Jones is different for me in two important ways. Firstly, she has a story to tell, and a good one at that. Secondly, my eldest was born with cerebral palsy, so it’s fantastic for him (and us) to see disability represented in the main character of a great book and written by an author with similar lived experiences to him.

Edie Eckhart is just about to begin secondary school when we meet her and the book charts the journey of her first term. This is also pertinent for my son, as he’s in Year 6 now, so about to reach the same life milestone himself.

At the beginning Edie has one best friend, Oscar, who she loves spending time with because they have loads in common and he really cares for and supports her in many ways. Over their first term in Year 7 they are put in different form groups and begin to make new friends and find new hobbies. At first that seems like that might be a bad thing, but all’s well in the end.

We read this as a bedtime story as a whole family, and I honestly think it’s one of the most important books we’ve ever read. Every few chapters Edie says something that really hits home or that leads to great conversations. It’s brilliant for our boy to share his experiences of growing up with a disability, with us. Also, it was lovely to hear from our youngest about what it’s like having a brother with cerebral palsy and how other people treat him (and her) because of it.

Tom aged 10 says… I’ve never read a book with a cerebral palsy affected character before and because I’m in Year 6 it’s good to hear about the transition to secondary school. I’m always being asked, ‘what happened to you? ‘what happened to your legs?’ or, ‘what’s that for?’ when people see my walker so it feels good to read about somebody else having the same problem as me. It feels good to not be the only one. In the book she says that she doesn’t see any disabled characters in her comics and that’s how I felt until I read this book.

Bella aged 8 says... I really liked Flora because she was really artsy, like me. In parts the book was funny and at parts it was sad but I liked it. I really enjoyed that Edie had cerebral palsy because not many film or book characters have disabilities. Lots of people are different and that’s one of the differences and it’s good to realise that and see it in a book. I don’t know why they don’t do that more because she was still an interesting and funny person.

Fantastically Great Women who Changed the World

Fantastically Great Women who Changed the World – February 2024

Who? Kenny Wax Family Entertainment in association with MAST Mayflower Studios

What? Fantastically Great Women who Changed the World

Where? Chichester Festival Theatre

When? 14-18 February 2024

What the show is about? The show is about a girl called Jade who gets lost on a school trip and ends up in an off limits part of the museum. Whilst there, she meets some of the women who changed the world in wonderfully different ways.

Jade usually always does the right thing and usually gets the feeling that she is invisible. The women she meets throughout the play inspire to be braver and take more chances her by telling her their own incredible stories.

The women she meets include: Frida Kahlo, Rosa Parks, Amelia Earheart, Marie Curie, Emmeline Pankhurst and many more motivational women who you may have heard of.

What was really good about it? I liked the songs and the dancing especially ‘Quiet Children’ because the chorus sounded quite good. Another good one was ‘ Where do you wanna go?’ because the harmonies sounded brilliant. Also ‘ Deeds not Words’ sounded good because the lyrics talk about the hurdles the women had to jump over to get the vote. I also enjoyed ‘World of Colour’ because they talk about having ‘wings to fly’ and ‘painting outside the lines’ which basically means breaking some of the rules at the time and just having fun.

I really liked that we could see the band above the stage during the show. There were 3 of them who played a variety of keyboards and percussion instruments and one of them came down to join the actors for one song when they did a drum solo.

What could be better? Maybe an interval to have an ice cream in but it was a 1hr 15mins performance so that is ok and anyway afterwards I had ice cream for the dessert after my meal at the Bell Inn to top off a very nice fish fingers and chips.

I can’t think of much but my sister suggested the sound could have been better because at the beginning of the show she couldn’t hear what the actor were singing properly. I only had this problem for a couple of minutes but after that it was fine.

What my Dad thinks? It’s the second time we’ve seen this show and I think it’s got a bit better in the last two years. The whole thing was just that bit tighter, the asides that bit funnier, the songs that bit more impactful and just generally a better show. That said, I couldn’t pin point anything in particular that was different, but it just was, okay? We sat slightly to the side this time and it’s clear show is designed to be played on a proscenium arch stage and it would have probably been a better experience both visually and in terms of the sound quality. A thoroughly enjoyable show though and a really inspiring one to take the children to.

Star Rating? 5 Stars!

THE WEE FREE MEN – A Tiffany Aching Novel

The Wee Free Men – Terry Pratchett

Tiffany lives on a farm with her family, makes cheese and when she grows up she wants to be a witch, a proper one, with a pointy hat.

Her journey to witch-hood really begins in earnest when her younger brother is taken by an evil queen into a world of nightmares. Tiffany, along with an unruly group of fairies, goes on a mission to save him and she learns a great deal along the way.

Tiffany Aching is the brave and intelligent lead in this book, but the real stars, for me, where the fairies, or pictsies, or Nac Mac Feegle, or Wee Free Men. They are brilliant and hilarious. They have three things they excel at: fighting, stealing and drinking. They give the reader the perfect opportunity to show-off their full range of Scottish accents. The book is packed with stereotypes about Scots which I may have found a little offensive if I was Scottish or sensitive, but I’m not, so it was funny.

Tiffany is an excellent role model for all readers, but especially young girls. She literally see the world differently from others and is able to use her gifts and intellect to overcome sound pretty major challenges.

An honourable mention for another excellent character is the Toad. When we discovered his backstory late on in the book, it really tickled me.

Throughout her quest to save her brother, Tiffany goes in and out of dreams belonging to herself and other people, because of that, I did get a little lost at points in the middle, but it all makes sense in the end.

Overall, we enjoyed the book and had many laughs along the way.

Tom aged 10 says… My favourite characters are the Wee Free Men because they are funny and very Scottish. My favourite part of the story is when we meet the Toad and Miss Tick gives Tiffany the lesson. This is mostly because I like the Toad and he turns out to be a very clever lawyer.

Bella aged 8 says...My favourite character is Tiffany because she is rave and noble. I really liked the parts of of the story with the Wee Free Men when they are shouting, ‘Waily, waily’, and ‘Crivens!’ They are really funny and I get to practice my Scottish accent. Tiffany’s brother is quite funny, too.

Life of Pi

Life of Pi – December 2023

Who? Simon Friend Entertainment

What? Life of Pi

Where? Chichester Festival Theatre

When? November 16 – December 2

What’s the show about? The show is about a girl called Pi and it is her recount of the ship, the Tsimtsum, sinking along with the rest of Pi’s family and how she survived.

She starts the recount by setting the scene in an Indian zoo, where she lived. The government had had a few arguments with one another and India became a dangerous place to live. There is also a Bengal tiger named Richard Parker, who is new to the zoo and he eats a goat, who does nothing to her, and this makes Pi annoyed.

The family decide to move to Canada as India has become too dangerous. They do this by boat. On the boat they had put the zoo animals in container ship crates. The ship’s cook is quite the butcher. Pi turns down the offer of food as she and her family are vegetarians. They then meet the friendly sailor, who is also Indian.

The ship sinks in a storm and everyone, except for her, drowns and goes down with the boat. She then finds a lifeboat with an injured zebra lying on the deck. The Bengal tiger, Richard Parker, also finds the boat and is hungry. The hyena, from the zoo, is on the boat as well, and is also looking for a meal. It’s a very dangerous place for any child to be. The hyena eats the zebra and after a few days, Richard Parker eats the hyena.

She is telling this story to the Canadian and Japanese government’s officials in her hospital room after being saved after 229 days at sea after the ship sunk. Back to the recount…

For the next few weeks, it is just Pi and Richard Parker. One day, when Pi cannot see anything because she was hallucinating through lack of fresh water, she thought that Richard Parker was talking to her in a French accent. This was my sister’s favourite part of the show and probably mine too because it was funny.

The government representatives don’t believe her and they ask her to tell them the real story with the proper facts and so she does.

In this version the ship also sinks and Pi’s dad and brother both drown. She also finds a lifeboat but this time the cook from the ship and the Indian sailor are on the boat as well. Then her mum comes across the boat and joins them. The Indian sailor’s leg is broken and Pi’s mum is the best doctor she can be to him until the cook suggests amputating the leg. He amputates it himself using his butcher’s knife. After a few weeks, the cook kills Pi’s mum. Pi then gets so angry at the cook that she also ends up killing him as well. It’s all pretty gruesome and very sad.

This time, the government representatives believe the story more than they did the first recount Pi told them. Pi asks if it matters which story was true because they both involve her losing her family, the ship sinking and all of the crew and animals dying. They agree it doesn’t really matter, but that the one with animals is the better story.

What was really good about it? The set looked really good with the lifeboat being on set most of the time. The hospital room/bed looks good also. The projections on the stage looked like the water was real and when the characters touched it, the water actually rippled. There were also sea creatures along the stage, or at least it looked like that anyway. The storm also looked menacingly good.

The puppets were very nicely done. The main puppet was Richard Parker but other puppets, like the hyena, needed more than one puppeteer. Another puppet was the turtle. All of the acting was good and I enjoyed watching the show.

What could be better? It was a bit too gory for me to give it 5 stars. I know it had to be in there because that’s what’s in the book but I didn’t really enjoy those bits.

What my Dad thinks… This was so good. I didn’t know the story beforehand as I’ve never seen the film or read the book, but I adored it. There are some quite dark and graphic moments, so it’s not suitable for younger children really, but my 8 year old thoroughly enjoyed it. I wouldn’t have thought children younger than that should see it, really, but we were careful to explain what to expect to both of the children and that some of the animals die in the story, so it will have sad moments.

The puppetry (and acting generally) was fantastic. The staging, including excellent projections, was really cleverly done. The reoccurring theme of religion is handled really well and it made for an excellent conversation starter with the kids. For me, the plot turned into a modern day parable that hits really hard was the bit that will stay with me. As humans we often find it more palatable to use animals in stories in place of the humans to explain some of the more extreme behaviours. Overall, it was simply brilliant. The national tour continues into 2024, so go and see it if you can.

Star Rating… 4 Stars

Chesham United VS Gosport Borough – 18.11.23

Setting the scene

It was a top of the table clash between 2nd and 3rd in the league. Chesham were looking to bounce back from 3 defeats in a row, 2 in the league and 1 in the FA Cup. It was my 1st time at The Meadow, home of Chesham United, who are nicknamed The Generals, and they hosted Gosport Borough, who, like us, had travelled up from Hampshire.

The Line-Up

How the teams lined up…

First Half

The first five minutes were with lots of long balls in the air and it was fairly end-to-end and scrappy.

Chesham settled into the game well and had a few chances. Ogochukwu Obi and Ricardo German, who represents Grenada internationally, couldn’t quite find the space and time to convert the chances and the Gosport Borough defence were very well organised.

On around 40 minutes, the Gosport striker went through on goal and the goalkeeper (Algerian, Zaki Oualah) made an amazing save to keep the scores goalless just as the linesman raised the flag to signal offside anyway.

On the brink of half-time, Ricardo German scored a powerful header from a Harry Rush corner to make it 1-0 to Chesham United! The crowd erupted and went into half-time happy.

Second Half

Gosport started the second half quite strongly. Both teams had a couple of good chances in the first fifteen minutes of the half. I got a hotdog and it was good.

The game was then settled around the 80th minute when the Gosport goalkeeper, Toby Steward, took out Zak Joseph inside the box and he got a red card. Joseph showed pure tenacity to chase down the ball that seemed lost to give Steward no choice but to take him out. This meant that an outfield player (Harvey Rew) had to go in goal as Gosport didn’t have a ‘keeper on the bench.

The penalty was converted by Ricardo German to collect a brace and up his tally for the season to fifteen goals from fifteen games in the league, which includes 3 hattricks so far this season. He went hunting for his fourth, and the game was over for 10-man Gosport Borough.

When German got taken off for Jordan Edwards without his hattrick it was safe to say that he looked quite annoyed, and I don’t blame him.

Ricardo German scores a penalty to make it 2-0 to The Generals

Full Time!

Chesham 2-0 Gosport Borough.

Chesham stay 3rd but close the gap on Gosport to three points and Chesham have a game in hand over them and 1st placed Salisbury.

Player Ratings

My man of the match was Ricardo German due to his two goals and looking dangerous throughout the 2-0 win for the Generals. I also enjoyed watching No. 7, Zak Joseph, the winger who also looked dangerous over the 90 minutes.

The official Chesham United Man of the Match was Harry Rush because he tirelessly worked hard in the centre of midfield.

Oualah 8 , Jones 8 , Duru 8, Rolfe 8, Murphy 8, Brown 8, Rush 8, Upward 8, German 9, Obi 8, Joseph 9

The teams line up before kick off
Kick off at The Meadow

@JamesBlakeLobb