Recommended by BBC Radio 4's Gardeners' Question Time
In The Playground Potting Shed, Dominic Murphy relates how he helped his local school establish a garden and grow a stunning array of flowers, fruit and vegetables during term-time. Week by week, he describes the small triumphs and inevitable setbacks he encountered while getting the gardening club off the ground, and shares friendly advice on everything from environmentally friendly pest control to avoiding troublesome varieties of vegetables. The result is a timely and inspiring guide that is guaranteed to get young people gardening.
From the age of 3, Vanessa lived in daily terror of her mother's unpredictable rage. If she was 'naughty', her mother would lash out at her – with beatings, torture, starvation and making Vanessa sleep in their garden's pigsty, tied up like an animal. Her mother said her punishments were God's revenge on her for being the devil's child. Her father lived in denial of her suffering.
When she was 6 years old, Vanessa's grandfather began to sexually abuse her – to her despair, aided and abetted by both her mother and grandmother. At eight years old, she then discovered that the 'mother' who hated her so much had adopted her as a baby and would never love her as her own.
At the most horrific times of Vanessa's abuse, she nearly lost all hope that she would escape her prison, until mysterious things started to happen to her that allowed her to fight back.
This is the story of how Vanessa survived a childhood that nearly destroyed her and how her secret led her out of the horrors of her past.
Cruel To Be Kind is the true story of Max, aged 6. He is fostered by Cathy while his mother is in hospital with complications from type 2 diabetes. Fostering Max gets off to a bad start when his mother, Caz, complains and threatens Cathy even before Max has moved in. Cathy and her family are shocked when they first meet Max. But his social worker isn’t the only one in denial; his whole family are too.
Alice, aged four, is snatched by her mother the day she is due to arrive at Cathy's house. Drug-dependent and mentally ill, but desperate to keep hold of her daughter, Alice's mother snatches her from her parents' house and disappears.
Cathy spends three anxious days worrying about her whereabouts before Alice is found safe, but traumatised. Alice is like a little doll, so young and vulnerable, and she immediately finds her place in the heart of Cathy's family. She talks openly about her mummy, who she dearly loves, and how happy she was living with her maternal grandparents before she was put into care. Alice has clearly been very well looked after and Cathy can't understand why she couldn't stay with her grandparents.
It emerges that Alice's grandparents are considered too old (they are in their early sixties) and that the plan is that Alice will stay with Cathy for a month before moving to live with her father and his new wife. The grandparents are distraught – Alice has never known her father, and her grandparents claim he is a violent drug dealer.
Desperate to help Alice find the happy home she deserves, Cathy's parenting skills are tested in many new ways. Finally questions are asked about Alice's father suitability, and his true colours begin to emerge.