Review: The Same Inside: Poems about Empathy and Friendship – Liz Brownlee, Matt Goodfellow and Roger Stevens (Illustrated by Debbie Powell)

‘Wonderfully uplifting and understanding in equal measure… a must-have poetry collection not just for every classroom but also for use across the whole school carrying far-reaching messages and morals that everyone should take home with them to live life by.’

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Rating: ⭐ ⭐ ⭐ ⭐ ⭐

Title: The Same Inside: Poems about Empathy and Friendship
Poets: Liz Brownlee (@lizpoet), Matt Goodfellow (@EarlyTrain) & Roger Stevens (@PoetryZone)
Illustrator (Cover): Debbie Powell (Website)
Publisher: Macmillan (@MacmillianKidsUK)
Page count: 96
Date of publication: 11th January 2018
Series status: N/A
ISBN: 978-1509854509

Perfect for Year 4, Year 5 & Year 6.

1. Uplifting 😊
2. Understanding 😃
3. Thought-provoking 💭

A gentle and thoughtful anthology of poems about empathy and friendship.

The Same Inside
Red perfumed apples
and crunchy, crisp green
used straight from the tree
or in tasty cuisine,
like honey nut charoset
and pies with ice cream.

In Fujis from Co-ops
and Cox’s from Spar
or Java apples
from far Zanzibar;
look inside any apple
and there is a star!
Liz Brownlee

Review: The Same Inside is a true celebration of diversity, difference and tolerance that reflects all that makes us the humans that we are, warts and all. As Jo Cox said, ‘We have far more in common than that which divides us’ and this message really permeates through the pages of this collection of beautifully-written, perceptive and lasting poems.

When the world sometimes appears grey and lifeless and blackened by anger, fear and hate, these poems will bring hope, light and life to try to make sense of the wonderful world that we live in and of the equally wonderful variety of people whom we share our wonderful world with.

Rich in empathy and emotion that will make you think, make you laugh, make you smile and make you feel the whole range of emotions, The Same Inside would make a worthy and valuable addition to every classroom and school. The scope of poems housed in this collection could be used at any part of a lesson or assembly – especially those with a PSHE (personal, social, health education) element – as a springboard to start, a piece of poetry to pick apart and analyse or as an ending moment to reflect on. However, not only is it filled full of poems that can be used as learning opportunities but they should also be adopted as far-reaching messages and morals that everyone can take home with them to live life by.

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For instance, my particular personal favourites include such delights as ‘Fingerprints’ (MG) which at only eight lines long is a true embodiment of the old adage of quality over
quantity, packing a punch with every single word, especially during the last stanza ‘don’t try to understand what is unique‘. Equally, ‘Speaking and Listening’ (RS) and ‘Just Like Me’ (LB) stand out for their compassion, humility and warmth that will resonate with many. I can also really imagine ‘Judge Me’ (MG) being a good performance poem for children helping to highlight issues of equality, fairness and mutual respect in a lively, powerful and most of all, memorable way.

By touching on and providing a tender look at situations that children may find themselves experiencing within school – directly and indirectly – such as managing feelings, empathy, respect, courtesy, bullying, disability and responsibility in a naturally engaging and accessible way, sharing this collection could be rather life-affirming through changing perspectives and altering attitudes.

Wonderfully uplifting and understanding in equal measure… it’s a gentle reminder that we all possess aspirations, fears, worries, hopes and dreams and so ultimately are all The Same Inside.

Where darkness, comes light.
Where actions often speak louder than words, sometimes words can be just as strong. Especially in ‘The Same Inside’.

Definitely one to feature in Empathy Lab‘s 2019 #ReadforEmpathy Book Collection.

‘Wonderfully uplifting and understanding in equal measure… a must-have poetry collection not just for every classroom but also for use across the whole school carrying far-reaching messages and morals that everyone should take home with them to live life by.’

A big thank you to Matt Goodfellow and Macmillan for sending me a copy of this wonderful book!

The Same Inside is available to order online or from any good bookshop.

Mr E


Review: A Far Away Magic – Amy Wilson (Illustrated by Helen Crawford-White)

‘Hauntingly beautiful and richly enchanting… A Far Away Magic is sure to cast its spell over you. Magic is most definitely not far away with this one, in fact it’s in every moment.’


Rating: ⭐ ⭐ ⭐ ⭐ ⭐

Title: A Far Away Magic
Author: Amy Wilson (@AJ_Wils)
Illustrator (Cover): Helen Crawford-White (@studiohelen)
Publisher: Macmillan (@MacmillanKidsUK)
Page count: 352
Date of publication: 25th January 2018
Series status: N/A
ISBN: 978-1509837755

Perfect for Year 6, Year 7 & Year 8.

1. Spellbinding ✨
2. Bewitching 🌌
3. Supernatural 👹

When Angel moves to a new school after the death of her parents, she isn’t interested in making friends. Neither is Bavar – he’s too busy trying to hide.

But Bavar has a kind of magic about him, and Angel is drawn to the shadows that lurk in the corners of his world. Could it be that magic, and those shadows, that killed her parents?

The first line:

There’s a massive mirror in the drawing room.

Review: Moving all alone to a new home, a new school, a new family, Angel finds herself mother and fatherless, friendless and faceless. Living with her foster family, whom in the beginning she never really gives a chance, she however starts to see something in someone deep within the shadows at school. The same kind of something that she saw in two other people close to her that are no longer here.

We discover that this someone named Bavar is a seven-foot-tall, misunderstood monster of a boy. In more ways than one. Completely and utterly unnoticed at school by his peers, he’s forever been seen as strange and hunched over, almost as if he’s been living with the weight upon his shoulders of the weird and wonderful world that he finds himself within.

At home however he’s different. His background is worlds apart – quite literally – from this lone figure. Living in the house on the hill where portraits of his dead ancestors whisper through the corridors and a bronze bust of his grandfather gives him advice, he discovers that he’s the family’s heir to defending the rift – a piercing void that allows monsters known as raksasa from an altogether otherly world through in to this one.

Once Angel sees Bavar, that’s all she sees. She tries getting his attention, talking to him, accidentally-on-purpose bumping in to him but it’s all in vain. It’s not through lack of trying however. Bavar doesn’t even want any friends. Particularly not one like Angel…

For unbeknown to him, she can see not just in to his eyes.
But his heart.
Even his soul.

Parentless. No friends. Troubled and lost. Invisible to the world.
The two of them together have no idea of how much they both have in common.

As their two, very different worlds begin to collide, the most unlikeliest of friends need to come together to try to resolve each other’s problems and this is where we start to see both characters’ true personalities. Angel may be fatherless, friendless and faceless but she’s also fearless. Whilst Bavar comes not only big in stature but also seemingly big in heart, as he wishes to defy and break his family cycle by not wanting to face up and fight the demons and darkness in the destiny that his predecessors have so dangerously left him in.

With a chapter-changing dual narrative providing both sides of their stories, it took slightly longer for me to get into this one than Amy’s debut A Girl Called Owl (a book I named as one of my top 20 #FaveMGKidsBooks2017) but maybe this was a sign as I started to feel more invested in the characters of Angel and Bavar. Something that Amy herself describes here that has likewise happened to her whilst writing.

Amy masterfully conjures up characters who, to start with, possess echoes of an almost gothic-like Beauty (Angel) and the Beast (Bavar) nature; who, during the story, so desperately need one another; and who, in the end, really do bring the best out of each other.

As readers, sometimes we may not fully acknowledge supporting characters within books. But in my eyes, Mary (Angel’s foster mother) is the most important character. Because if Angel is the only one who truly sees Bavar for who he is, then the same could be said for Mary who I think is the only one who truly sees Angel for who she is.

As Amy describes, it took 17,000 words for her to get Bavar to even think about speaking to Angel so it’s entirely fitting that he has the last word in the final chapter yet Angel really is the catalyst, that she is so often referred to as in the book, to Bavar for helping him to find himself… but can they work together to close the rift in time and keep the raksasa out? Will the truth about Angel’s parents’ deaths be revealed?

This hauntingly beautiful and richly enchanting story while having themes of grief, loss, loneliness, magic and friendship, is also about the power of others seeing something within you and that may be something that you yourself might not believe you even have.

It broods and stirs with a mesmerising quality – full of emotional intensity –  weaving a whole feast of fantastical elements in to Bavar’s world of magical warfare against the backdrop of Angel’s real world. There’s a line in the book when Angel discovers a room in the house of Bavar where men and women gather in clusters and a woman has ‘magic in every movement’, well to paraphrase this: A Far Away Magic certainly has magic in every moment.

Thank you to Amy Wilson and Jo Hardacre for sending me a copy of this mystifying and magical book.

A Far Away Magic is is available to order online or from any good bookshop.

‘Hauntingly beautiful and richly enchanting… A Far Away Magic is sure to cast its spell over you. Magic is most definitely not far away with this one, in fact it’s in every moment.’

Mr E