Wednesday, 8 October 2014

Reviews and endorsements of 'Red Leaves'

Here are reviews and endorsements on 'Red Leaves' from reviewers, educators and young readers:

Julia Eccleshare :'Red Leaves' is LoveReading4Kids Book of the Month

'Award-winning Sita Brahmachari has a great gift of understanding for the confusions and loneliness of adolescents and their need to be gently nurtured and cherished.'

'Sita Brahmachari has created a beautiful tale of modern multicultural Britain.' 
The Book Trust Review

'Red Leaves' was published on 25th September 2014 by Macmillan Children's Books.

Red Leaves is endorsed by Amnesty International UK 
 "We are proud to endorse Red Leaves because of its sensitive depiction of diversity and the human need for somewhere to call home. It's a novel that encourages readers' empathy, which is a big step towards understanding, tolerance and kindness - all values that help us to uphold human rights.''
(Nicky Parker, Publisher at Amnesty International UK)
'If I was a Year 6 or Year 7 teacher, I’d order a copy of this book for my classroom or school library right now. Why? Because it’s ambitious in its scope, but gets away with it spectacularly. On the surface, the story involves a small gang of kids having an adventure and solving a mystery with a bit of magic thrown in. But look deeper and you’ll find issues like divorce, working parents, homelessness, domestic abuse, looked-after children, refugees, mental illness, multiculturalism and wars past and present packed into its pages. And Sita Brahmachari does it in a way that seems entirely natural and not in the least didactic.'
It's not often that once you have finished reading a book you need to sit down and simply say “Wow.” This is precisely what I did when I finished reading Red Leaves. It’s not often that a book can redefine your way of thinking and provoke thought about the things we take for granted: family, community, culture, home and the people in the world around us. This is a really poignant book, one which carries a very important message.
'It's about telling stories, weaving tales from past and present, far and near around the world, and bringing them all together in a wonderful crescendo.'

Teacher endorsements: 

Amnesty International UK will be creating education resources for 'Red Leaves' and a number of teachers have recommended the book as a class reader.

Annie Birch , Leader of Literacy at St Paul's way Trust School London

'From the first paragraph onwards ‘Red Leaves’ is visually rich.  My recent teaching has highlighted how students quickly understand this story on a symbolic, as well as a literal level, as a result. It is a seemingly simple tale and yet it holds within it a depth of meaning. It is a story for our times and yet for all times, for young people and yet for all people.‘Red Leaves’ is also emotionally and linguistically rich. Beautifully written, both boys and girls in my lessons immediately empathise with the lives of the carefully observed central characters. As with all of Sita’s books, these represents a rich range of cultural backgrounds and experience, both similar to and different to their own; this makes very fertile territory for dialogue and developing deeply empathic and moving writing. Readers can grapple with the impact of significant issues faced by young people in the story which are also so prevalent in all of our lives; divorce, fostering, bullying, isolation, homelessness, history, war and also family, community, friendship and love- all permeate the pages. 

Great literature should enable us to reflect on society, understand it a bit more and in the process change ourselves. ‘Red Leaves’ does this. The setting of ‘Home Wood’ can be seen as a microcosm of 21st  century society, an arena in which to explore modern life with all its multi-layered, complex cultural issues. ‘Red Leaves’ reveals beauty in nature, diversity and struggle and within the conclusion of the plot, it highlights what people have in common across cultures

At a time when PSHE is too often squeezed out of the curriculum in favour of subjects that yield more point scores or test results, the emotional relevance of this text alone is a strong argument for using this as a must-read text, not only for KS3, but across the school. Of course students will learn about fantastic writing in this book ; setting, character, imagery, plot and description. But literature can also teach us about life. The issues explored in the dialogue and dynamic between characters enable readers to have greater insight into the lives of others, make connections with people who may initially appear to be different to themselves and hopefully to overcome prejudice or limits in viewpoints and judgements. 

‘Red Leaves’ is a special treasure. It is moving, magic and meaningful on many levels. Isn’t it 
time to allow young people to experience some magic back at the heart of the curriculum?
Catherine Coles English Teacher, Fortismere School. London.

'I would choose 'Red Leaves' for a reader for year 7 or 8 for the following reasons: It has interesting contemporary themes that are also timeless - identity, conflict and coming of age that provide good comparative themes to other work eg, poetry. This will work really well with the new ' Comparing text' requirement in the National Curriculum beginning Autumn 2014. The structuring devices with parallel narratives and time frames would be interesting to explore with a year 7/ 8 class. The book offers many possibilities for creative writing. There are also strong links to PHSE, Citizenship, RE and Literacy  The length of the novel is manageable and could be read as a whole class text. The length of the chapters can be easily read in one class sitting and the text is rich enough with a range of stylistic uses eg. dreams, poems, multiple narrative to be analysed in detail. The style of writing is beautiful and accessible '
Catherine Coles English Teacher, Fortismere School. London.

Joanne Chadwick Head of Social Sciences at Alexandra Park School, London. 

'What a great read! A lovely book, truly easy to access and relate to.

In terms of Citizenship:’Red Leaves is a relevant book to modern multicultural Britain. It explores three teenage lives through their varied problems, yet draws together the underlying similarities facing young adults today. Life for young people is a struggle, no matter their background and upbringing. Red leaves enables us to relate to and have insight into these modern day struggles, whilst making important connections to the past. There is a shared humanity and human desire in Zak, Aisha and Iona that despite their differences and troubles, unites them.

Red leaves can be used to explore the impact of conflict outside of the ‘war zone’ (be that Somalian conflict or domestic violence in the UK) how young adults make their way in British society, how they fit in, but are wrestling with multiple identities. They are part of the fabric of modern British society but still feel excluded at times from the expectations, routines and bureaucracies of British life.
Red leaves could be used to make the connection between conflicts old and new and the impact and scars that these leave on children. Red leaves allows these connections to be subtly made and could be used as an exploration or starting point to gently ease students into the study of conflict and its impacts.

Young Reader Reviews

In my opinion ‘Red Leaves’ is the best of Sita’s books. All of her books have a light heartedness to them that intrigues younger readers but this book addresses something a lot more serious. The way that Sita writes about the unity in different cultures teaches young readers about the sense of community we have in the UK.

My favourite thing about the book is that Sita brings together histories of three culturally different teenagers without the help of technology. The setting of the ‘Home Wood’ - which I visited in Highgate – is perfect for uniting the ancient and the new. The woods are very old with an air raid shelter which is where Aisha, Zak and Iona hide out. I really loved this idea because we know that people hid in the air raid shelter when they were escaping from war but the 
characters hid in the air raid shelter to escape from their problems which was a very interesting parallel. The woods also had a conservation area to allow new, diverse fauna and flora to grow which represented the children that were still yet to grow.

My favourite character was Iona because despite being a young, homeless girl she still took great pride in her artwork. In spite of not having seen the drawing of her dog – Red – I really loved the way that Sita described the artwork as sophisticated and detailed which is a distinct contrast to Iona’s life. Overall, I would definitely recommend this book to anyone who feels out of place for the older and younger readers.
Mymona Noor, St Paul's Way Trust School

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