December 5, 2018
by Nora Nagy
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The gift of reading

Character sketch by Viola Niccolai from Deborah’s Dreams, soon to be published in The Thinking Train series. © Helbling Languages

Look at your bookshelf. Do you still remember which books were given to you as gifts? Who gave them to you and on what occasion? What did the book mean to you back then?

When someone gives us a book, they give so much more than a beautiful object. A book is a key which opens doors of faraway lands. Through the pages of our books we go on adventures, learn new things and discover emotions we might not have experienced before. We also share these experiences with each other: reading and liking the same book makes us connected in a special way.

Now, at Christmas, when we are thinking of what presents to give to our family and friends, we have a simple answer for you: give the gift of reading. Books never go out of fashion and become more and more precious each time we lift them. If you are giving a book to a child, spend time on reading to them, this way the gift becomes even more memorable, both for the giver and the receiver. Select each book carefully, but consider giving books that you like for some reason. And don’t forget to tell the person why have selected the book for them. Continue Reading →

November 27, 2018
by Nora Nagy
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Young learner projects for cold days and holidays

The year is coming to an end and our students are distracted by all the celebrations that this season brings so we need the most playful activities to keep the language they have learnt during the school term alive and help them use it in various meaningful contexts.

In both of our series of readers for young learners (Helbling Young Readers and The Thinking Train), you will find a project at the end of each book. These one-page projects are arts & crafts activities or board games which will help you end the reading sessions in a playful way, connecting the story with your students’ immediate environment and creating something that that will be fun for them to use but also remind them of the story each time they reach for it. Here are our favourite projects for winter days and holidays.

This week we select our favourite projects from the Helbling Young Readers series. You will find each project at the end of each book or you can download them from the Helbling Young Readers website. Continue Reading →

November 21, 2018
by Nora Nagy
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Meet the illustrator: Simone Manfrini

How do you illustrate a famous classic? What are the first steps you take in this exciting process? We talked to Simone Manfrini, the illustrator of our new classic reader, The Age of Innocence written by Edith Wharton. This novel – a story about love, sacrifice, family and appearances – is set in New York in the 1870s. This era, often called the Gilded Age, has a special atmosphere filled with fading glamour and nostalgia. Although this is Simone’s first illustrated classic, his illustrations have great  depth and convey the emotional suspension of the characters. We talked to him about how he approached this well-known story.

We also recommend Simone Manfrini’s website. Simone lives in Italy and works as an illustrator. He graduated from the Academy of Fine Arts in Macerata in 2016.

Helbling Readers Blog (HRB): How did you become an illustrator? When did you start drawing?

Simone: I’ll start with the second question. I started drawing on the wall of my balcony as a little boy. My mother never told me off for doing this, indeed she encouraged me to keep on drawing. I think this experience influenced my attitude towards drawing. I only became an illustrator relatively recently.

Simone in his age of innocence

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November 15, 2018
by Nora Nagy
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Writing with role-play: get inspired by the Brontë Sisters

The Brontës and role-play

Anne, Emily, and Charlotte Brontë by their brother Branwell (c. 1834). National Portrait Gallery, London. Source: Wikimedia Commons.

As I was reading the ‘Letters to the Editor‘ section in the Times Literary Supplement in early September, I noticed a thread of comments on the 200th anniversary special issue about Emily Brontë. The articles and letters discussed the influence that the sisters’ childhood role-playing games had on their adult fiction and poetry writing. The Brontë sisters and their brother Branwell grew up in the remote village of Haworth in West Yorkshire with their vicar father and their aunt, after the death of their mother and two older sisters in the early 1800s. One day they received a gift from their father: 12 small toy soldiers. The children started making up and acting out pretend scenarios with the soldiers. Naturally, they also wrote their ‘plays’ down. Then, once they had a taste for writing, they went on to craft stories about the imaginary worlds of Angria and Gondal. Emily was twelve, and Anne ten, at the time. Emily would go back to this fantasy world when she wrote her Gondal poems between 1844 and 1848. Her only novel, Wuthering Heights was published in 1847. Although, as biographer Jacqueline Banerjee claims, the Gondal stories do not ‘provide the only useful entry to the novel’, they are often seen as a source of inspiration for much of Emily’s writing.

Whether these childhood role-plays directly influenced the sisters’ adult writing or not, we can confidently say that they set the children off on their writing career with their love of reading further fuelling their imagination. Continue Reading →

November 6, 2018
by Nora Nagy
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Lighting up Children’s Lit: Maurice Sendak

The people who made a difference: 4) Maurice Sendak

“Once a little boy sent me a charming card with a little drawing on it. I loved it. I answer all my children’s letters — sometimes very hastily — but this one I lingered over. I sent him a card and I drew a picture of a Wild Thing on it. I wrote, “Dear Jim: I loved your card.” Then I got a letter back from his mother and she said, “Jim loved your card so much he ate it.” That to me was one of the highest compliments I’ve ever received. He didn’t care that it was an original Maurice Sendak drawing or anything. He saw it, he loved it, he ate it.”

Maurice Sendak

Maurice Sendak reading his own book. Source: Self-Styled Siren Blog 2014

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