Great Reads for younger Readers

With the new term about to start there are many teachers out there who are looking for good and exciting books that they can read and recommend to their younger pupils this year.  These suggestions are hopefully ones that will help them; they are really for KS1 and KS2L and whether the children read them individually is obviously a matter for the staff.  However they have all got potential to be read to the children if teachers are looking for funny, interesting or exciting stories that do not take the whole term to read.  Give some of them a try and decide whether they will work with your young people.

Barrington Stoke, 9781781127681

“Rose’s Dress of Dreams” by Katherine Woodfine and Kate Pankhurst is one of the first titles in a new series by Barrington Stoke.  The books are a smaller format than usual and have coloured illustrations, all of which makes them very attractive to the younger reader.  This title is about a young girl and her dream of becoming a dressmaker during the pre-revolutionary period in France.  The young Rose eventually became the first of the famous couturiers and an influence on generations of designers. It is really about holding on to your dreams and trying to overcome the challenges that life throws at you.  It is particularly good for those who have an interest in history or fashion

Usborne, 9781848127333

“Marge and the Secret Tunnel” by Isla Fisher and Eglantine Ceulemans is the fourth in a series about one of the most eccentric babysitters you are likely to meet.  Jemima and Jakey often have to spend time with a babysitter and until Marge came on the scene they had always disliked the experience.  However with Marge everything becomes an exciting adventure and in this story they go exploring in a secret tunnel that they find at the bottom of the garden.  there are actually three stories in this book, the other two being about a”great shopping race” and the “lost kitten”.  Having these short stories makes them very accessible, not only to new readers but also for reading in class; they are just long enough to read the whole tale in one session.  Great for KS1 children.

Usborne, 9781474928120

“Meet the Twitches” by Hayley Scott and Pippa Curnick.  This is a delightful introduction to a young girl, Stevie and the family of toy rabbits called the Twitches.  When Stevie and her mother move from their tower block flat she is given a wonderful and quaint dolls’ house, in the shape of a teapot.  Included are all the furnishings and fitting and a complete library; most fantastic of all are the family of toy rabbits that inhabit the house.  What Stevie does not know is that the rabbits magically come alive and when the father, Gabriel is lost in the garden during the furniture moving, it is up to the family and especially young Silver to find him and get him back home.  It is a lovely story about the importance of home and family and I am looking forward to reading more of their adventures in the future.

Barrington Stoke, 9781781127551

“Hari and his Electric Feet” by Alexander McCall Smith and Sam Usher.  The author is well known for the crime series that he has written over the years, but he has also become known for the stories that he has written for children.  This book is by Barrington Stoke and is a delightful story of hope and how music and dance can have a beneficial effect on people.  Hari and his sister live with their aunt in a big city in India, as their parents have had to go away to earn money and Hari helps by making sweets and delivering lunches.  he is an avid fan of Bollywood films and loves the dancing; so when his sister suggests he tries it himself, he does and discovers a talent to make others dance along with him.  This leads to all sorts of adventures and a happy ending for the whole family.  This is a real “feel good” story and has lots of lessons for the adults of the world, so why not get dancing.

Hodder, 9781444932065

“Mr Penguin and the Lost Treasure” by Alex T. Smith is the fantastically funny story of an intrepid adventurer and detective as he searches for a lost treasure.  The fact that he is a penguin  and his sidekick is a spider just adds to the totally whacky plot.  The illustrations are weird and wonderful and Alex T Smith has created a truly original new hero.  there are lot of twists and turns in the plot and you cannot be sure who are the villains and who are the good guys.  I am sure that we will see a lot more of this exciting hero with a love of fish finger sandwiches.

Hachette, 9781444921724

“Rabbit and Bear: Attack of the Snack” by Julian Gough and Jim Field.  This is the third in a series of short stories about Bear and his friend Rabbit.  One day they are out swimming when a creature crash lands in the lake and they pull it out, but they have no idea what it is. Eventually they discover that it is an Owl and all their friends have a view about what type of animal an owl is.  It is a fascinating look at how we are affected by rumours and scaremongering and I think there are many links to what can happen in the real world.  Children however are going to love the information at the end of the story, as the Owl (he is a burrowing owl) explains that he lines his hole in blueberry Poo, in order to attract beetles to eat.  There are brilliant illustrations and  extremely funny characters; it will be a great read for those gaining confidence, but also a lovely class read.

Usborne, 9781474932011

“Tanglewood Animal Park: Elephant Emergency” by Tamsyn Murray is the third story about the Tanglewood animal park and in particular Zoe, the daughter of the owners and Oliver, the son of the park vet.  Each of the stories has followed the fortunes of new animals as they are introduced to the park and in this story it is a family of six elephants who are being re-homed, from a zoo that is closing down.  This is a wonderful story of the ups and downs of looking after animals and there is a real sense that the author truly knows what it is like to be involved with all of these creatures.  For anyone who loved the TV series about Longleat, or just loves wildlife, these are a fantastic read.

Oxford University Press, 9780192764058

Night Zoo Keeper: Giraffes of whispering wood” by Joshua Davidson and Buzz Burman mixes magic and wild animals in a lovely story.  When Will is transported into the world of the night garden he enters a world of imagination where he has to save the animals from the  robotic spiders, called Voids.  It appears that he is the next “Night Zoo Keeper” and he and his friend Riya have to help the giraffes who inhabit this part of the zoo. This is a great story about letting your imagination fly and not being afraid to be different from everyone else.

Well, there they are.  Hopefully you will have found something that excites you.  I would also suggest that you look on the websites of these publishers, because they are going to have other titles that you may want to consider and they often have additional materials that the children can use both in class and at home.  Anyway, do Enjoy!

The wonder of factual books

I thought it was time for another look at some of the amazing factual titles that have been coming out in the last twelve months.  It is fascinating that we are having such a resurgence in information book publishing and yet at the same time we still have the doom-mongers who say that we only need the internet for our information needs.It is fair to say that the number of non-fiction books found in schools seems to be on the decline but that may be a symptom of lowering budgets rather than a desire to be online all the time.

 

” Usborne Politics for beginners” by Alex Frith, Rosie Hore, Louie Stowell and Kellan Stover.  It is not often that a book about politics, written for children, causes such a stir but this title has done exactly that.  Whilst aimed at KS2 and above this is actually very suitable for adults who have not shown an interest in politics before.  It is divided into six main chapters, covering everything from kinds of governments to some of the major ‘questions’ that people as, such as “what is terrorism?”It is a well laid out book and has been very well researched.  It has also used a range of experts, from BBC reporters to MPs.  I particularly  like the section on how to hold a debate because it makes you think about different aspects of the discussion.  It has a good index and glossary and is really recommended, both for school and for the home.

“The Lost Words” by Robert MacFarlane and Jackie Morris is a totally stunning work of art, both in the poetry and in the illustrations.  The premise it simple;  it is an alphabetical list of terms associated with nature, that seem to be disappearing from everyday knowledge and usage.  However the reality goes far beyond this, because each definition or description is a poem in its own right and the first letter of each line adds up to create the name of the subject matter.  Jackie Morris’s illustrations are almost beyond description; they are sumptuous, lyrical, magical evocations of the world around us.  This is one of those books that totally transcends the way we label books.  It is something that can be read and pored over with a small child, but it also works  as a wonderfully absorbing read for adults.  It is possibly at the top of my non-fiction list for the last year.

“Where’s Jane” by Rebecca Smith and Katy Dockrill is a look at the novels of Jane Austen.  It covers six of her most famous works and gives a very concise description of the stories.  Each book is given a double page spread with details of the plot as well as a small vignette of the characters.  There is also a double page of just illustration which shows scenes from the book and which has an element of “Where’s Wally as the reader has to find the character of Jane, as well as her Pug dog.  there is a great deal of complexity in the illustrations, all of which show everyday activities of the period and give us a real sense of the time.  What is particularly helpful is the slight change in the colour palette for each of the books, this creates a natural division between the sections and brings a different atmosphere to each story.  As we commemorated the bicentenary of her death in 2017 this book seems particularly well times.  It will be extremely useful, not only as an introduction to the books, but also a look at the social and cultural elements of life in the early 19th century.  Definitely one for the KS2 classroom.

 

“The People Awards” by Lily Murray and Ana Albero is a look at 50 people through history who have had an impact on the lives of the world around them and changed the way that we think.  Some of these people are household names but many of them are not; however they have all been chosen to represent specific quality.  the book is aimed at younger readers, from about 7 years upwards and it is heavily illustrated with bright and cheerful pictures. this introduction really whets the appetite and will hopefully lead young people to find out about the award winners in more detail.

“Great Women who made History” by Kate Pankhurst is one of the many books about strong women that have been produced in order to commemorate the 100th anniversary of Women’s suffrage.  This one is aimed at a relatively young audience, the lower end of KS2 or even good readers who are slightly younger.  The range of women cover the last four thousand years of our history from Ancient Egypt to the Russian Cosmonauts; whilst most of them are well known there are one or two who do not usually appear in such books and it is great to see this variation.  It is a brightly illustrated book with plenty of information, but in bite-sized chunks and I am sure that readers will be encouraged to go ahead and find out more about the amazing women mentioned.

“Animal surprises:how to draw” by Nicola Davies and Abbie Cameron.  Nicola Davies is one of the most well known and respected writers of narrative non-fiction for young people, with an emphasis on the natural world.  This book is part of a series that she has written in collaboration with a young illustrator called Abbie Cameron.  The idea is to show young people how to draw some of the creatures that are found in some of Nicola’s books, starting with “Animal Surprises”; this will be followed by other titles such as “The Word Bird” and “Into the Blue”.  Each animal has a short half page description by Nicola but the main emphasis is on the building of the illustrations.  It is aimed at the absolute beginner, using circles, ovals and lines to construct frameworks and then filling in the details.  I feel as if even I could have a go at creating the animals shown.

“10 reasons to love a bear” is part of a series aimed at younger readers and which introduces them to some of their favourite creatures in the wild.  There are double page spreads and just three or four lines of text on each page, so that it makes for a great book to read on a one to one basis.  the facts act as a starting point for more in-depth searching.  It is a very child friendly series and further titles include Whales and Elephants.

This really is just a taster for some of the many titles that are coming out at the moment.  I have already got a small pile of them, ready for the next review  and there are several that have really got me excited.  What a really brilliant time for children’s publishing and especially for non-fiction titles.  This resurgence is something that we can only be grateful for and hope that it continues.

Spring into Picture Books

Firstly I am going to look at a selection of stories based around reading and books, which seems somewhat appropriate, given the theme of this blog. It has become quite common to see books and reading become the focus of books, both picture books and those for slightly older readers.  I have noticed that there are several others being published during the summer, so I hope I will be able to write about them later in the year.

Andersen Press, 9781783446025

“Not just a book” by Jeanne Willis and Tony Ross is full of the magic and imagination that we have come to expect from Jeanne Willis and Tony Ross.  It is very simple  text with Tony Ross’s now classic style of illustration.  We see the multitude of things you can do with a book (even if it is not such a good idea) but the focal point is that reading a book enables us to use our imagination, to feel emotion and empathize with others, to learn from and to enjoy.

Little Red Reading Hood” by Lucy Rowland and Ben Mantle.  this is another look at the magic of reading and how a little imagination can change the stories that we know.  It starts out as a version of ‘Little red Riding Hood, but takes an unexpected turn, thanks to the librarian who had been tied up by the wolf.  It encourages children to change things around if they don’t like the way a story is going and is a wonderful encouragement for those wanting to write their own stories.

“Birdy and Bou: the Floating Library” by David Bedford and Mandy Stanley is a charming story aimed at the very young.  Bou, the panda and his friend Birdy live on the edge of a river.  Imagine their excitement when they see the Library Boat on its way to their village, so they and their friends hurry down to the river bank so they can choose some books to read.  they become so involved that they do not notice that the boat is about to leave and they need to get the book back.  Luckily Birdy is able to fly the book to the Library! A great introduction to using a library and a way of reminding us that in other parts of the world having access to books is more difficult than for us.

Read the Book, Lemmings” by Ame Dyckman and Zachariah OHora is a tale about the importance of being able to read.  Foxy is reading his book about Lemmings and finds that they don’t actually jump off cliffs, unfortunately the three on board his ship can’t read and keep jumping into the water, where they need to be rescued. Despite all his efforts, I am not sure that the Lemmings really understand what he was trying to say  A great story for the very young, but with a very important message for even the adults among us.

 

 

The rest of my selection for this time are all new titles and most of them deal with various issues that young children are likely to come across at home, or in school.  While the subjects vary and the illustrations and text  range from the conventional to the extremely quirky, I think that these are all great books that you will enjoy reading to young listeners.

“Picking Pickle” by Polly Faber and Clare Vulliamy.  this is an absolutely gorgeous story about choosing a new dog.It is a simple discussion between the reader and a dog called Pickle and he is trying to help us find the right dog to take home.  Well, you can imagine who the perfect animal turns out to be!  This is a magical  story to read to any child, especially if you are thinking about buying a pet.  It makes you think about the animal and whether it will fit in with your family, so that you become the perfect family for this dog.

“The Itchy-saurus” by Rosie Wellesley is the story of a T-Rex who suddenly finds that his skin has become red, dry and very itchy and he doesn’t know what to do about it.  Luckily Doc Bill (a Platypus) comes along and helps him get better with some soothing creams and treatments.  Whilst this is a great story it also has a very strong role in helping young children who have eczema  understand what is wrong and how the doctors are trying to help them.  Definitely one for schools, nurseries and even doctors’ surgeries.

“What’s at the Top” by Marc Martin.  This is a totally fantastic flight of imagination as we are asked what might be at the top of a ladder.  The questioner comes up with increasingly more complex possibilities; the amount of text increasing as the book continues.  The twist at the end of the story, when we see who is asking the questions will have everyone smiling, but I am not going to give away the identity.  A longer review for this book can be found in Armadillo magazine on-line.

“Erik the lone wolf” by Sarah Finan is the story of a young wolf who wants to be independent and get away from the pack.  However he finds that there are occasions when it is very helpful to have the support of the pack, especially when danger is close by.  It is a lovely tale of  trying to grow up, testing the boundaries and then understanding the meaning of family and friends.  the illustrations are great and you get  real sense of connection with Erik and his attempts to grow up.

“The Station Mouse” by Meg McLaren is one of my favourite picture books so far this year.  It is the story of Maurice, a station mouse, who collects all of the lost items every night but no one ever comes to claim them back.  How Maurice changes the rules of the ‘Station Mouse Handbook’ and makes things better for everyone makes for a fantastic book, which leaves you with a warm  glow when you have finished reading it.  This is going on my list of  ‘forever’ books.

“Between Tick and Tock” by Louise Greig and Ashling Lindsay.   What a totally enchanting story about the pressures of living in the modern world and having that breathing space to sort everything out.  This is the story of Liesel, a little girl who lives high in a clock tower.  When she see things going wrong and people being unhappy she stops time and uses that space to help mend, replace, find or save people and things that need help.  It really reminds us about the importance of kindness and helping others and has a really magical quality.  It is yet another book that will be on my ‘forever’ books list because of the thoughtfulness that it evokes.

“Ruby’s Worry” by Tom Percival reminds me a bit of  “The Huge bag of Worries” by Virginia Ironside and Frank Rodgers, but it is an updated look at the issue that many children (as well as adults struggle with).  When Ruby discovers a worry gradually getting bigger she worries so much that it begins to take over her life.  Then one day she discovers someone else with a worry and they find that talking about them makes them grow smaller and eventually disappear.  The simple, clear and supportive message is one that we all need to remember and this is a perfect story to tell to young children who are in the same situation as Ruby.

 

 

Enjoy the books and have a lovely summer!

 

A few books to whet the appetite.

The last few months have been an absolute treasure trove of new middle grade fiction; it has ranged from favourite series reaching their conclusion, to the start of some fantastic and truly imaginative adventures.   Recurring themes seem to include elements of ‘Steam Punk’ , Time slip adventures, magic and crime.  In other words there is something for everyone if they can search out the books.  As always I hope that these little tasters will help people find something that suits them.

Chicken House, 9781911077657

“Tin” by Padraig Kenny is the first book by a very talented writer and it is set in a world where mechanical persons and animals are commonplace.  Christopher is a ‘real’ boy who was orphaned as a small child and is now apprenticed to an inventor who creates mechanicals.  It is a great story that is full of adventure and a few secrets that will tug at your emotions when they are revealed

Bloomsbury, 9781408854877

“The Explorer” by Katherine Rundell is a wonderful story of a group of children who find themselves stranded in the Amazon Jungle after their aeroplane crashes and the pilot dies.   When they find evidence that someone has been in the area before them, they start to see if they can find the person or ways out of the jungle.

Nosy Crow, 978-0857638427

“Evie’s Ghost” by Helen Peters is a lovely time slip story for middle grade.  When Evie is sent to stay with an elderly and rather eccentric godmother she does not expect to find herself transported back to 1814.  She finds that the daughter of the house is being forced to marry a friend of her father; however back in the modern world there is a story that this same person has been imprisoned by her father and then mysteriously disappeared, presumed dead .  How Evie copes with life in the 19th century and searches for a way to help the daughter makes for a thrilling story which I really enjoyed.

Scholastic, 9781407181707

“Brightstorm” by Vashti Hardy is a wonderful mix of  steampunk, exploration and  the importance of family.  It has two strong and determined siblings who set out to find what has happened to their explorer father, after he is pronounced dead and accused of having sabotaged another airship crew.  I think we are going to have great fun with Arthur and Maudie as they take on further adventures.  We also have a wonderfully evil villainess in the shape of the aptly named Eudora Vane.

Sky Pony Press, 978-1510739420

“Me and Mr P” by Maria Farrer is a truly delightful story of Arthur and his younger brother Liam.  Arthur often feels left out because of the problems that Liam has to cope with (he is on the autistic spectrum), so when the mysterious Mr P, who just happens to be a Polar bear, turns  up on the doorstep he wonders what is going to happen.  This is a gorgeous story that leaves you feeling warm and cuddly inside, even though Liam has to cope with some serious issues.  I am looking forward to Mr P’s next adventure as he continues to help those in need.

Egmont, 978-1405282901

“The Midnight Peacock” by Katherine Woodfine is the final book in the ‘Sinclair’s mysteries’ series and the author provides a really exciting and satisfying finale.  When Sophie and Lil are invited to a Christmas/New Year  party at Winter Hall,they did not expect to find yet another mystery for them to solve.  Thy are pitted against old enemies and are in a race against time to prevent a disaster.  It has recently be announced that the intrepid duo will be starring in a new series of books over the next few years, so all of their fans will be jumping up and down with joy.

Bloomsbury, 978-1408872758

“The Prisoner of Ice and Snow” by Ruth Lauren is set in a country not dissimilar to old Russia with snow, wolves and warring nations.  Valor has created a situation where she has been sent to a terrible prison called Tyur’ma, made of ice and stone; however this is part of her plan to free her twin sister from this same place.  Why they are there and how they can escape and save their country forms the basis of this exciting story.  I loved the relationship between the girls but there were also lots of twists and turns in the plot which kept me guessing for a while.

Puffin, 978-0141373782

“Spoonful of Murder”  by Robin Stevens is the latest in the “Wells and Wong” series featuring the two schoolgirl detectives Daisy and Hazel.  This time they are staying in Hong Kong, after the death of Hazel’s grandfather, so that she is the one who is comfortable and in control, unlike daisy who is quite out of her depth.  This is an extremely personal investigation for the two girls and is a worthy addition to the series.  I find myself recommending this all the time and the followers are growing, book by book.

“The Eye of the North” by Sinead O’Hart  sees another intrepid young girl, this time called Emmeline, setting off to discover the whereabouts of her missing explorer parents.  It is a steampunk novel with two opposing and still very nasty villains both of whom want to stop Emmeline and her companions from solving the puzzle and finding the missing parents.  (Stripes, 978-1847159410)

“The Empty Grave” (Lockwood and Co.) by Jonathan Stroud brings the Lockwood and Co. series to an end and it does so with a really fantastic story which brings all of the story strands together.  A really great series for those who love the supernatural, magic and a fair bit of investigation.  The unlikely team of investigators face not only the supernatural but also real adversaries and finally discover secrets from the past. (Disney-Hyperion,  978-1484778722)

“Carnival of Monsters” (S.C.R.E.A.M) by Andrew Beasley is the second story in a new series by this author and featuring a Victorian crime-fighting duo called Charley (a girl) and Billy.  The twist is that they are part of an organization that specializes in dealing with the supernatural.  It is also great to see that Charley is a strong and leading character in the books, with no ground being given because she is in a wheelchair; an excellent role model.  (Usborne,  978-1474906937)

Usborne, 978-1474940665

“The House with Chicken Legs” by Sophie Anderson gives the game away with its name; that is if you know the Russian folk tale “Baba Yaga”. this is an updated version of the story, where the heroine live with her grandmother, the eponymous Baba Yaga but does not want to follow in her footsteps and help the dead to cross into the next world.  All Marinka wants is to be a normal girl, live in the same place and have some real friends.  Her attempts lead to some unfortunate events and she gradually learns that she needs to compromise in order to get the best for herself and those she loves.

Hodder, 978-1444936704

“The Wizards of Once” by Cressida Cowell is the first in the new series by the wonderful Cressida Cowell.  She has moved away from Dragons but this time she has  Wizards and Warriors who are hereditary enemies.  However things are about to change when it is accidentally discovered that Witches are not extinct and that the queen of witches is on the move and wanting to get rid of the two groups who banished her in the past.  A very funny story with two great characters in the centre of things.  I can’t wait to see how this continues.

Orion,978-1510104112

“Nevermoor” by Jessica Townshend is yet another story set in a magical world.  Since early childhood Morrigan has been blamed for every bad thing that has befallen the people of her village: from her mother dying in childbirth to people tripping over or even wishing someone a good day.  Because she was born on Eventide night she is doomed to die at the same time on the night she turns 11; unfortunately that date is fast approaching.  However before this date there is the annual ‘bid’ ceremony where children are chosen to attend different types of education. Morrigan is allowed to attend as an observer and is shocked when someone bids for her. When the eccentric Jupiter North offers her the chance to train for the Wundrous Society in the secret city of Nevermoor, Morrigan jumps at the opportunity to escape her fate, but is it ‘out of the frying pan’?  This is the first part of a wonderful new series that is gaining lots of fans and I am looking forward to the next book in the series.

I do hope that people find stories that they will enjoy among this selection.  I thoroughly enjoyed all of them  and had a roller-coaster ride as I looked forward to the next stories in new series and said goodbye to old friends as other tales came to an end.  With Easter about to arrive I hope that you find time to enjoy several of these magic and imaginative stories.

 

 

A Christmas Wreath of books

This has been an amazing year for Christmas books and this is just a small selection of those that are available

“A Tree for Christmas (Winnie the Pooh)” written by Jane Riorden is a charming little story about how Christmas came to the Hundred Acre Wood, with a little help from Christopher Robin and the wonderful animals in the wood.  It is in a miniature format which is disappointing but it is still worth reading to the young ones in your life.

“A Newborn Child” by Jackie Morris is a totally wonderful, magical retelling of the Christmas story.  the author has created the most sumptuous illustrations and the text is short but totally reflective of the images.  The name Jackie Morris always means quality and she has maintained her high standards with this book.  It is a real classic.

“Bah! Humbug” by Michael Rosen and Tony Ross is another way of re-telling the story from “A Christmas Carol”. Harry is playing the role of Scrooge in the school play and desperately wants his dad to attend, but that is beginning to look very unlikely.  There is a very poignant and yet uplifting contrast between the plot of the play and the everyday life that harry is having to cope with.  Yet another one to add to my Christmas shelf.

“One Christmas Wish” by Katherine Rundell and Emily Sutton is a beautifully written and illustrated story about young Theo who has been left at home on Christmas Eve while his parents are both still at work.  When he thinks he sees a shooting star he makes a wish that he could have some friends for company and that is when the magic starts.  The book is  truly lovely object and has a feel of the 1950s about it;  the paper is thick and creamy, the illustrations are of the period and the colour palette is bright but without the harshness that is often found today.

 

“The Girl who saved Christmas” by Matt Haig is the final part of his trilogy about how Father Christmas took on his role.  A fantastic ending and a reminder that we have to ‘believe’ if we are to keep the magic of Christmas

“I killed Father Christmas” by Anthony McGowan and Chris Riddell is a very funny story of what happens when people misunderstand what they hear. This is a delightful story from Barrington Stoke with matching colour illustrations from our previous Children’s Laureate.

“The Midnight Peacock” by Katherine Woodfine is the really great finale to her series about Sinclair’s Department Store. Our heroines Sophie and Lil find themselves spending the holiday at Winter Hall but danger and intrigue seems to have followed them.  A cracking read and thankfully there is a hint that the girls will be back for more adventures in the future.

“Jingle Bells” by Tracey Corderoy and Steve Lenton is a collection of stories about Shifty McGifty and Slippery Sam, with the first one being about their attempt to save Santa’s sleigh after it is taken.  This is great fun as always.

“The untold story of Father Christmas” by Alison and Mike Battle with Lauren A Mills is another version of how this mythical character became the person we know today.  The cover is sumptuous and the illustrations are beautiful, with soft and glowing colours and a feel of Scandinavian scenery.  This is for KS2 children probably, but is a great read for telling to younger ones.

“Let it glow” by Owen Gildersleeve is a charming look at what a child sees around him on his way hoe from the town and with a very precious package.  The illustrations are based on very intricate paper collage and this gives a 3-D effect.There is also a battery at the back of the book, which provides lights  at different points in the story.  The very young children will love this.

“The Nutcracker (The story of the orchestra)” illustrated by Jessica Courtney-Tickle  is one for those who love their ballet.  This is a very straightforward re-telling of the story but with the magical addition of small excerpts of music; you press the relevant button and are transported to the performance.  It would make a wonderful gift for someone about to attend their first performance.

 

I know that this is late for the festive season but it will give you a head start for the coming year!  have a wonderful time reading and talking about books.

Keeping out of the rain

This summer has been a real mix of weather and there have been many occasions when the best idea is to just curl up with a good book and a hot drink, however as I am finishing this post over the holiday weekend the sun has come out and reading starts to be enjoyable in the garden.  This has meant that I have managed to read more than my usual quota of books over the last month or so.  A few of them are review copies for journals and I have to admit that they have all been ones I enjoyed reading; not something that I take for granted.

 

“The Polar Bear Explorers’ Club” by Alex Bell is a magical tale, set in an unreal world with Unicorns, miniature penguins and man-eating cabbages to name just a few of the weird and wonderful characters.  Stella Starflake Pearl, the heroine, has been brought up by her guardian since he found her as a baby.  He is a member of the Polar Bear Explorers’ Club and Stella dreams of joining him in his travels, but girls are not allowed to be explorers.  How she overcomes this challenge, fights a range of dangers and finds out about the mystery of her own birth makes for a really exciting and  action packed story.  There is magic and adventure as well as messages about what family really means and the importance of friendship.  I was completely hooked by this story and am really looking forward to the next book about Stella and her friends.

“Greta Zargo and the Death Robots from Outer Space” by A.F. Harrold, illustrated by Joe Todd Stanton.  I was lucky enough to hear this author/poet speak at a conference earlier this year, so I was excited to see what this story would be like.  Well, it was just as hysterically funny as you might imagine with a very determined heroine Greta Zargo, who really wants to be an investigative reporter.  There is the case of the missing cakes and the competition to win a reporting prize but in the background and moving ever closer to Earth is a Death Robot; can Greta find the culprit and save the planet at the same time.  You will have to read it to see.

“Chase” by Linwood Barclay is the first story for children by a well known writer of detective novels.  He has given us a mystery with two main central characters.  Their stories start individually but gradually things begin to merge until eventually we understand how they are linked together.  Chipper is a dog that has been kept in a scientific research facility since he was young.  He knows that the ‘white coats’ have done things to him, but his increased abilities allow him to escape and go on the hunt for someone (unknown) that he just has to find.  On the other side of the State lives Jeff, who has gone to live with his aunt after the tragic deaths of his parents.  How these two come together and what their connection is makes for a thrilling and very addictive story.  The next in the series should be a real roller-coaster I suspect.  One for years 6 and 7.

You can’t make me go to Witch School” by Em Lynas.  Daisy Wart just wants to become a great Shakespearean actress but her grandmother insists that she is a witch and sends her off to witch school.  Despite her protests she finds that she can do magic and she and her new friends are called upon to save Toadspit Towers (her school) from an ancient curse.  can she do this and also achieve her acting ambitions?  This is a funny and exciting story about finding yourself and also about friendship.  It is great for the lower end of KS2 and those who just want a light and very enjoyable story.

“Podkin One ear” by Kieran Larwood brings back memories of stories by both Brian Jacques and Robin Jarvis, which means that perhaps I am showing my age to some extent.  It is a fantasy with rabbits as the main characters, so there is also a nod to Richard Adams and ‘Watership Down’.  They are anthropomorphized, so that we are taken to a somewhat medieval landscape with warring  tribes and three young rabbits who are fleeing from a terrifying enemy and who have to save an ancient treasure.  It is a thrilling story for ‘middle grade’ children and could well be a favourite for many years to come.

“The Starman and me” by Sharon Cohen (NG) reminded me somewhat of ‘Stig of the Dump‘by Clive King, ‘Nation‘ by Terry Pratchett and another new book by Adam Stower called ‘King Coo’.   When Kofi sees an unusual small and very scruffy person on a roundabout he is in for the most amazing adventure of his life so far.  The character finally makes contact, but is he from our world and if so, how did he get to England?  this is one of those books that gradually hooks you and then reels you in.  A really great read.

Hospital High” by Mimi Thebo (NG).  this is a book for teens and is very personal to the author as it is based on a true story.  It is the story of Coco, who ends up in hospital after a car accident, where she suffers internal injuries including crushing her voice box.  The ensuing months and years follow her struggles to regain her health, but also to see how her relationships with family and friends pan out.  It is a totally uplifting tale that I will probably read again  and would definitely recommend to other adults as well as to the intended audience.

“School for Skylarks” by Sam Angus (NG)  follows the story of Lyla who is evacuated to live with her Great Aunt at the end of 1939.  She does not want to leave her mother and hates her father for splitting them up.  This is a real roller coaster of a story; the heroine is not one we naturally find sympathetic but over the war years we follow her as she gradually matures, both emotionally and intellectually.  More by accident than design Lyla finds that a small girls’ school is billeted in the big house and she learns how to work with others and gradually make friends.  It is such an heartbreaking story at times, but eventually we get a satisfying end that works well.  This is definitely an author to look out for.

Ban this book” by Alan Gratz (NG) is a thoroughly thought provoking story of what happens when Amy Anne’s favourite book is banned  from the school library.  For those of us who have been around for a long time it will bring back memories of “The day they came to arrest the book” by Nat Hentoff.   The situation in America is very different and they even have an annual ‘Banned Books Week’, so that people can stand up for their right to read what they like. If you look on the American Library Association website you will see the list of hose books which have been challenged over the years, you can find it here http://www.ala.org/advocacy/bbooks/banned .

“The Escape from Mr Lemoncello’s Library” by Chris Grabenstein (NG) is an exciting story of a group of children who win the change to have a sleepover at the amazing Mr Lemoncello’s Library.  It is a place of wonder and mixes science with magic so it is not surprising when the challenge becomes harder and the young people have to learn how to work as a team in order to escape from the ‘lockdown scenario’ they find themselves in.  It is a great story and I am looking forward to reading the two other stories featuring the library.

Looking at this group of books I think I have been very lucky with the titles that I have been given access to recently.  The range of subjects is wide ranging and the age groups are also wide.  There is everything from high fantasy to the really heart rending stories based on real life.  Hopefully there is something for everyone, so dip in and give some of them a try.

(NG)  Thanks to Net Galley for providing access to a digital proof in return for a review.

Readers find their wings

I know that this is a really odd title for a blog post but I think it reflects the sensation when children first discover that they can read longer books with pleasure and a certain degree of fluency.  It is like learning to walk, ride a bike or even to swim; there is a feeling of freedom and having some control over the environment in which you find yourself.  In other words it is a truly liberating experience which will stay with you for your whole life.

“The New Teacher” by Dominique Demers and Tony Ross is the first in a series of books by this French Canadian author and which was first published in 1994.  It is a short and very witty story about what happens when Miss Charlotte arrives to teach a class of young children who do not enjoy school.  Her somewhat eccentric methods eventually make her very popular, but the children find that they have to fight to keep the teacher they have come to love and admire.  As a follow on, you might like to read “The Mysterious Librarian” which sees Miss Charlotte take on the challenge of encouraging children to enjoy reading.

“The Spooky School” by Tracey Corderoy and Steve Lenton is another set of short stories about the cake-baking, crime-fighting duo of Shifty McGifty and Slippery Sam.  They originally started their adventures in picture book format but have now branched out for the next age group.  In this book they save jewels, fight ghosts and meet a fiendish new villain; a Red Panda called ‘Red Rocket’.  It is great fun.

Tamsyn Murray  has written “The Troublesome Tiger” as the second story in the “Tanglewood Animal Park” series which follows the adventures of young Zoe, whose parents have bought Tanglewood Manor and turned it into an Animal Park.  This story revolves around Tindu the male Tiger and the attempts to help him settle down in the park, before the arrival of his new mate.  It is a charming story with a lot of information and a cast of characters that you can’t help but like.  This is a super series, especially if you are an animal lover.

“Captain Pug” by Laura James and Eglantine Ceulemans follows the adventures of  young Lady Miranda and her dog called Pug as they visit the local boating lake.  However when things get out of control and Pug finds himself in the sea and being rescued by another young girl life becomes quite adventurous.  This is the first in a series of adventures for the pampered pooch and joins the list of books written about the breed.

“Pugly bakes a cake” by Pamela Butchart and Gemma Correll is another Pug related story only this time the hero is called Pugly and he is trying to bake a cake for his owner.  Unfortunately his efforts seem to be being sabotaged by Clementine (Clem) the family cat.  Most families with a mix of pets will understand the frictions between the main characters and the very funny scrapes that they get themselves in to.

“Marge and the Pirate baby” by Isla Fisher is the second book featuring Marge, a truly unique babysitter. This time she is looking after Jemima and Jake as usual, but finds herself having to look after their demon of a baby cousin called Zara.  There are three short stories in this offering and I think that the author is really starting to be comfortable with her characters, which means that we become more involved with the stories.  This is a funny and quirky book for both boys and girls.

“HILO, the boy who crashed to earth” by Judd Winnick.  What do you do when you discover a boy that says he fell from the sky and does not know where he is from.  That is the situation that D.J and Gina find themselves in and they then have to try and find a way of sending him back home.  This book is the first in a series of comic style books being published by Puffin.  It is bright , well illustrated and full of humour; in other words it is great for boys in particular, although the strong female character makes it fun for everyone.

“Jinks & O’Hare Funfair Repair” by Philip Reeve and Sarah McIntyre is another one of their fantastically funny collaborations.  Set in Funfair Moon it is full of zany aliens, dastardly villains and a clever heroine called Emily.  As you would expect this will take you on a ‘roller coaster ride’ of excitement.  The illustrations are full of the energy and humour that we have come to expect.  It is a great book to read alone or to a class.

“The Bolds on Holiday” by Julian Clary and David Roberts.  Once again we enjoy the company of the Bolds, a family of hyenas who are living in Teddington, disguised as humans.  This book sees them and their friends going to Cornwall on their summer holidays.  As usual there are lots of ‘groan worthy’ jokes as well as puns, both written and visual.  I love the way that the author’s voice comes across so easily and the illustrator’s ability to translate all of this visually.  A really great read for all ages.

“Rabbit and Bear” by Julian Gough and Jim Field is about the developing friendship of Bear and Rabbit.  Bear wakes up during winter as a thief stands on his nose as they are leaving his cave; that is when he finds that all his food is missing.  He goes outside and discovers the wonder of the snow.  Rabbit offers him a moldy old carrot to eat, which he is very grateful for.  However he does not know that it is Rabbit who has stolen his food. When a wolf comes looking for some food the two friends have to work together and Rabbit in particular learns a few things about friendship.  What a funny story with some gross elements such as Rabbit eating his own poo (yuck!)

“A Race for Toad Hall” by Tom Moorhouse and Holly Swain is a wonderful update on  “The Wind in the Willows”.  When Teejay, Mo and Ratty find an old Toad frozen solid in the ice house, little did they guess that it was the (in)famous Toad that they had heard stories of from their grandparents. Toad of course is just as excitable as in the past and when he finds that the weasels have taken over Toad Hall and want to knock it down for a housing estate, he is determined to get it back.  With the help of his new young friends he finds a way to challenge the weasels.  This is a great story full of charm and humour that really retains the spirit of the original and this is captured by the super illustrations by Holly Swain.

I hope that you find some books here that you will enjoy reading, either to yourself or to some others.  All of the stories have the ability to make reading FUN, which is the best way to help children develop a love of reading for the rest of their lives

 

Book-lover’s heaven

I have been taking teachers and librarians up to Birmingham for the last 12 years or so.  As far as choosing children’s books is concerned Peters, the library supplier, is possible the centre of the Universe and the magical thing is that you actually get to pick the books off the shelves.  Over the long time that I have been visiting, things have changed a great deal.  There are new sections, a stronger emphasis on schools and an ever growing collection of furniture and soft furnishings.

 Whilst most of my time on a visit is spent helping the schools, I do get time to look at what has been arriving in the last few months and these are some of the picture books that caught my eye when I visited three weeks ago.

 

Nosy Crow

“I’m in Charge” by Jeanne Willis and Jarvis is the story of a young Rhino and how he learns some lessons about sharing and friendship.  As always the brilliant Jeanne Willis brings some very relevant  words of wisdom to the book.

Walker Books

“Frog and Beaver” by Simon James is a funny story with a serious underlying message.  Beaver is so busy creating his own environment that he does not see how he is spoiling it for others; when his dam fails he learns that he needs to work with his friends and neighbours.

Hodder

“Thank you, Mr Panda by Steve Antony is yet another wonderful story of the very original Mr Panda.  He very kindly gives his friends presents, but without considering of they are suitable; something that we, as humans, should keep in mind.

Walker Books

“This is the Kiss” by Claire Harcup and Gabriel Alborozo.  It really is a gorgeous read for the very young and will make bed-time an occasion to be treasured.  Definitely one to read to my grandson.

Egmont

“There’s a Pig up my Nose” by John Dougherty and Laura Hughes gives a very modern twist to the concept of stories such as “There was an old woman who swallowed a fly”.  So when Natalie get a pig stuck in her nostril she still has to go to school, where everyone tries to free the pig. A totally whacky story.

Faber and Faber

“This is a Serious Book” by Jodie Parachini and Daniel Rieley.  This is a wonderful piece of nonsense as the author tries to create a ‘serious book’.  However the characters have other ideas and they create complete mayhem as they thwart the author.  A super story for reading in class.

Templar

“The Lumberjack’s Beard” by Duncan Beedie reminds me of “The Twits”, only this time the beard is full of creatures that the lumberjack comes across in the course of his work.  It is an exuberant and funny story that will be great as a class read, as well as a one to one story.

Oxford University Press

“Mr Bunny’s Chocolate factory” by Elys Dolan.  I loved this tale of big business and the exploitation of chickens laying chocolate eggs, it makes me think of “Chicken Run” with chocolate.  The illustrations are brilliant and you can spend hours noticing some of the really funny details.  What a fantastic story to read for Easter.

Exisle

“The Great Sock Secret” by   Susan Whelan and Gwynneth Jones.  As adults we always wonder where odd socks disappear to, but in this story Sarah has has her own ideas and has to keep them secret from her mother.  Sarah knows that the socks are being used by fairies and she doesn’t want them discovered, but what can she do to help?  This is a great take on a well known problem and has a hint of magic

Andersen

“Odd Socks” by Michelle Robinson is a charming story of what happens when sock goes in search of his lost wife (who had a hole and was starting to unravel).  It is funny and and at times rather poignant as sock continues his search; luckily there is a happy, if somewhat unexpected ending to the story.  Definitely one to read with a group (and perhaps include a small craft session!)

Red Fox

“Dog loves Books” by Louise Yates is about a bookseller dog who is better at loving books that at selling them.  However the story is about sharing that love and letting people know that there are books to suit everyone, you just need help in finding them.  A lovely way to help young children enjoy the book.

Orchard Books

“Be Brave little Penguin” by Giles Andreae and Guy Parker-Rees is the tale of a baby Penguin who is frightened of the water.  it is a story about coming to terms with your fears and overcoming them.  The joy that Penguin experiences as he meets the challenge will have you cheering out loud.

As you can see, I had a great time looking out these fantastic picture books.  They cover a wide range of topics, but they will all enthrall the young audiences that they are intended for; as well as those adults that are telling the stories.  ‘Happy Reading’ to you all.

 

The Chickens are hatching

Barry Cunningham

“What on earth is she going on about?  What Chickens?”  Well in the publishing world this can only mean the fantastic Chicken House Books, founded and run by the amazing Barry Cunningham (yes, he did sign up J K Rowling).  Yesterday I had the great pleasure of attending one of their ‘Big Breakfast’ events, where they present authors and books for the coming year.  It was held in central London, in the rather elegant surroundings of Home House (pronounced Hume like the prime minister?) and we were fed with a range of pastries and loads of tea and coffee.

The event started with an introduction to all of the authors and their books, luckily we were given packs with details of these to take home.  Although the emphasis was on the first six months of the year, there were several titles that will be coming out in the autumn.  We were delighted that so many of the authors were able to attend (I think I counted 10 or 11), however several of the American writers were understandably not there.  The highlight of the day was when several of the authors read excerpts from their new works.  They were all consummate performers and a far cry from the old days, when writers often found it difficult to communicate in person.

 

“Alice Jones: the Ghost Light” by Sarah Rubin.  This is the second in the series about a young amateur sleuth called Alice Jones and I must admit to being a fan.  It fits into that group of writers who would be perfectly at home in the “Golden Age” of crime fiction, although these books are set in the current period.  A great series for those who love Robin Stevens and Katherine Woodfine.

“The White Tower” by Cathryn Constable  is a new title by the author of “Wolf Princess”.  It is describes as “Magic realism” by the publicity and is definitely one that is on my TBR list.

“Mafiosa” by Catherine Doyle is aimed at the older teen and is the climax of the “Blood for Blood” trilogy.  Those who enjoyed the preceding  novels “Vendetta” and “Inferno” will no doubt devour this latest offering and also those who like a gritty and powerful take on their thrillers.

“The Secret Keepers” by Trenton Lee Stewart.  this is the start of a new series by the author of “The Mysterious Benedict Society” and it will be loved by those who like their fantasy/mystery to include a little bit of ‘playing with time’.  A watch that can make you invisible for 15 minutes could be very useful, but villains chasing after you are less welcome.  I am really looking forward to reading this in the next few weeks.

Maz Evans and Gemma Fowler

“Who Let the Gods out” by Maz Evans  is a debut novel and features the Gods of Olympus, but not perhaps at their best.  I have been looking forward to this for several months now and have started reading it, so no doubt a fuller comment will be added later.  Since ‘Percy Jackson’ we have seen many authors writing about the various pantheons of gods and I think this may well be up there with the other really good ones.

“The Elephant Thief” by Jane Kerr is due out in March and is a historical novel set in the Victorian period.  When you mix a lonely young urchin with a circus elephant and then send them on a journey it is likely that all kinds of adventures will happen.  This sounds like a book with a warm glow to it.

“Amy Chelsea Stacie Dee” by Mary G Thompson.  This sounds as if it is  not for the faint-hearted but it is sure to find a strong following with those who want a strong story-line and a plot that will take them on a roller-coaster ride.  The age advisory is 14+  for this one

“Moondust” by Gemma Fowler is one of the sci-fi thrillers that seem to be making a splash at the moment.  It is all about mining for a new energy source on the Moon and has strong themes about the environment as well as about the joys and perils of being a teenager.

M G Leonard

“Beetle Queen” by M G Leonard.  this is the second in her “Beetle Boy” series and is due out in April.  I was very  lucky last year and tool the author out to several schools. She was  tremendous  and the original “Beetle Boy” has seen huge success with lots of award nominations.  I can’t wait to read more about the female villain that makes Cruella de Ville look like a cuddly kitten.

“Bigfoot, Tobin and Me” by Melissa Savage.  We are having to wait until May for this story, but from what I have seen, it will be well worth the wait.  Aimed at the 9+ age group it is about dealing with grief, and since the author is a paediatric grief therapist it is safe to assume that she knows her subject. This is one I am really looking forward to.

“The Island at the end of Everything” by Kiran Millwood  Hargrave is a story of a young girl living with her mother on the leper colony of Culion Island.  When all healthy people are evicted from the island, Ami decides to try and return so that she can see her mother before she dies.  I get the feeling that you should not be reading this on public transport due to the “Heartbreaking” parts of the story.

A P Winter and Lisa Drakeford

“The Boy who went Magic” by A P Winter is described in the publicity as “being perfect for fans of Eoin Colfer”.  It is a fantasy, with just a hint of Steam punk (judging by the picture), so I think I am really going to enjoy this one.  It is aimed at what is now called ‘Middle Grade’, so the 10+ age range and will make a great summer read.

Three others that will be coming out later in the year are:

“The Crash” by Lisa Drakeford, which is aimed at the teen market and involves the aftermath of a car smashing in to the sitting room of a house.

“Witch Alone” by James Nicol is the follow up to the very successful “Apprentice Witch”, so this is bound to be another huge hit.

“Secret Cooking Club: Confetti and cake”  by Laurel Remington is the second in this series and I am very hopeful that it will live up to the high standards of the first book.

As you can see, we were spoilt with all the amazing authors and books that were presented at the big breakfast and I am going to have a lot of reading in the coming year.  I hope that you will find some titles that will suit you, or the young people you work with.

Truth will out – a look at some new non-fiction

In the past non-fiction or information books have been rather ignored by reviewers, apart from educational and library journals.  They were seen as specialist books that were only judged for their curriculum suitability, rather than for any literary or artistic merit.  Over the last few years there has been a resurgence of interest in producing non-fiction that is high quality, beautifully illustrated and well written.  An outstanding example of this is “Shackleton’s Journey” by  William Grill which won the Kate Greenaway medal for illustration.

“How Super Cool Stuff Works”  from Dorling Kindersley.  This is the latest in a very popular concept which shows a range of new and future technologies.  The book is printed in landscape and the page ends are coated in silver paint, so very high tech.  The book itself is divided into sections such as ‘move’, ‘play’, and ‘construct’ and although the information is fairly basic there are some amazing photographs which will keep the reader entranced.  Whilst there is a good contents list, index  and glossary there are no links to information elsewhere, probably because information on the ‘net’ goes out of date so rapidly.  This is one of those books that you just start browsing and then it sucks you in.

Wide Eyed, 9781847808240

“Destination: Space” by Dr Christoph Englert and Tom Clohosy Cole.  The author of this book is a lecturer in Physics and Astronomy and hence brings a huge amount of subject knowledge to the work as well as an ability to pass that on to his audience.  The information is provided in bite sized chunks, but they all link together and provide the groundwork on which to build your knowledge.  Illustrations totally fill each page and are vivid and often beautiful, with a slight nod towards the 1950s.  The highlight of the book is the fold out at the end which shows the stars in the Northern and Southern Hemispheres.  The only down side is the lack of a contents page and index

“Hello Mr Moon” by Lorna Gutierrez and Laura Watkins”.  This is a charming introduction to the cycles of the Moon, aimed at the youngest of readers.  It is told in rhyme and can be read as both a story and as a source of information.  Basically it is a conversation between the Moon and a small child who loves watching its changes.  The illustrations are beautiful and use the dark blue of the night sky to balance the brightness of the Moon.  This is brilliant for Foundation stage and beyond.

“88 1/2 Science Experiments” by Nick Arnold is a great addition to the primary school.  The author is well known in the education field and he has produced another clear and concise book about science.  The book is divided into  nine sections from magnetism to water and nature and there are a range of experiments within each area.  As you would expect, there is a good glossary and index, so that this is useful as a class text as well as a library book.  The pages are bright and clearly laid out.  the text is logical and understandable with the processes being explained in an effective way.  A lot of the ‘experiments’ do not require special equipment so they could be done in a classroom, or even at home.

“Get Coding” by Young Rewired State is one of the many books that have appeared over the last couple of years, ever since coding was placed on the curriculum.  this covers everything from learning HTML to building a website.  The book begins with the basics and then builds on these by creating various ‘Missions’, where the reader has to build pages and apps in order to move forward in their task.  This is not something you can just dip in to, although I am sure that members of a younger generation will find it easier to follow.  This is definitely one that my younger son would have loved in his youth, when he was just learning to program.

“How to be a Blogger and Vlogger” by Shane Birley.  Well, this is a book that I could have done with when I started this blog.  It is full of sensible and useful information  that is well laid out and actually understandable.  For young people who want to blog and vlog this is a very good place to start; of course it is also definitely for those older people who want to have a go at setting up a blog.  It lists the main blog sites but it might be useful for schools to know that WordPress have a separate blog host called Edublogs which is aimed specifically at those working in education and which has more safeguards that normal sites. Yes, that is what I am using as it is a very good and user friendly place to be.

“Tell me a Picture” by Quentin Blake is a reprint of a title that was originally published to go with an exhibition at the National gallery in 2001.  This contrasted the work of classical painters with the work of modern illustrators from around the world.  Blake uses his signature cartoon figures to inform and question what is going on in the paintings.  Unless the audience is knowledgeable about art they may well not differentiate between the two groups of artists.  There is a section at the back of the book which gives thumbnail  images and information about each piece of work.  It is an excellent introduction to some major artists across the centuries.

“Spot the Mummy in the Museum” by Sarah Khan is actually a beginner’s guide to visiting a museum and gives information about some of the major civilizations that you are likely to see there.  It is aimed at KS1 and asks the reader to search the pictures for hidden items that were important to various ancient cultures.  This is bright and cheerful; it is divided into the various sections you might find in a museum but there is no contents, index or glossary.

“50 things you should know about the Tudors” by Rupert Matthews is a history of this dynasty told in chronological order. It is part of a series ranging from WWI to Space and is a clear and informative introduction to each topic.  The book is full of fascinating image and facts about the Tudors and I particularly like the way it covers the broader aspects of each reign, for example the need to get government finances under control after the spending by Henry VIII.  There is an excellent contents page as well as an index and glossary.  One you start reading this you want to keep going, a very good introduction to the period.

“50 things you should know about Space” by Professor Raman Prinja is another in this excellent series and the format is the same as the others.  The contents page shows that the layout of the book and it starts with the history of the universe and how we have reached the state that exists today; then it looks at our solar system and each of the planets  before finally covering the technology that has developed to allow us to explore the space around us.  An excellent introduction to the subject.

Wayland, 9780750298209

The Great Fire of London” by Emma Adams, illustr. James Weston Lewis is a wonderful tribute to the 350th anniversary of this terrible catastrophe.  the front cover with its leaping flames and gold outlines really highlights the image and feel of the fire.  the inside illustrations are very ‘retro’ and take me back to my childhood in the late 1950s.  They appear to be wood or lino cuts and bring a clarity and atmosphere to the pictures that is very moving.  The colour palette is limited, using blues, rust, orange and yellow; however these are balanced throughout the book so that they reflect the different elements of the sad event.  The story is told chronologically and the inclusion of small quotes from Samuel Pepys’ Diary really add to the drama and poignancy.  I also like the way that the story talks about the consequences of the fire; there were new buildings, improving fire services and more awareness of the dangers to be found in a crowded city.  I absolutely love this book.

On your Bike” by Chris Hoy, illustr. Clare Elsom.  In contrast to the stories that he has co-written with Jo Nadin this book is actually a guide to looking after your bicycle, types of cycling and just enjoying the pastime.  The information is accuarate and deals with everything from maintenance and repair to choosing a bike and starting to race.  You really could not want for a better person to guide new riders than Chris Hoy and he has done a great job in encouraging children to take their cycling more seriously and to stay safe while they are doing so.

“The Busy Beaver” and “”Up the Creek” by Nicholas Oldland are two stories about a group of friends; they are Moose, Beaver and Bear.  Whilst the stories can be read just as picture books, they are also about friendship, sharing and also about the consequences to others when you do something without considering them.  The stories and illustrations are amusing, colourful and full of personality as well as providing a lesson for young readers.

“The Worm” by Dr Emma Lawrence is the first in a fairly new series from a small publisher, Brambleby Books.  The book itself is small (18cm square) and a comfortable size for young readers.  The illustrations are clear but almost childlike and there is an element of fun added by the cheeky and amusing worm that appears in all the pages.  the words are limited to only two lines of rhyming text per page but they explain the subject manner in a concise and understandable way.  You could read this as a story to young children, but the inclusion of an index allows for some degree of searching, although the information given is not always very obvious.  This is a nice addition to the mini-beast collections of Foundation and KS1 classes.

“Tickly Mini beast Adventures” and “Fluttering Mini beast Adventures” by Jess French.   The study of mini-beasts has long been the mainstay of the KSI curriculum and these two books look at different types of small and very crawly creatures.  The author is a zoologist and TV presenter, so she combines knowledge with the ability to connect with her audience.  The illustrations and photographs are clear and accurate, whilst the text  explains, without overwhelming the young reader.  Even the size of the books is aimed at being comfortable for the small person.  There is also a lovely surprise at the back of each book; one has a cut-out spider, whilst the other has a butterfly model.  Altogether a well thought out series.

“My little book of Tractors” by Rod Green is one of those books that my 3 year old grandson is going to love.  it is full of every kind of tractor and bulldozer that he could imagine.  The layout is by type of machine and where they are used so that you get a real idea of how the use has developed over the last 100 years.  The illustrations are up o date, bright and easily link to the small and concise blocks of text.  A great book for KS1 to read and for younger children to share with an adult.

“Amazing Animal Journeys” by Chris Packham is an introduction to the incredible journeys that animals make on a regular basis as they migrate to different parts of the world and then back again.  Chris Packham is a well know and respected naturalist and he has chosen 15 widely different species to act as examples.  Illustrations are used rather than photographs and this allows for some imagination to be added.  Most of the images include a group of three children and this links the reading audience with the actual migratory process.  Whilst there is not a huge amount of text it does give some fascinating information and acts as a springboard for those who want to go further in their research.  It is  a great book for KSI classes.

“100 most Awesome things on the Planet” by Anna Claybourne.  The author has been writing non-fiction for  considerable amount of time, so you can expect quality when you see her name on a book.  This is one of those books that you dip in to, although some avid non-fiction readers will devour it whole.  The subjects are given a page each and the book itself is divided into natural and man-made wonders.  I must admit that I found myself ticking off those items that I have seen, but I still have a very long way to go.  It is a very useful addition to the school or home library.

“British Wildlife” by Matthew Morgan and Laura Knowles  is one of those fascinating guides that provide a basic introduction to the world of nature for younger readers.  The book is divided into into ‘chapters’ which are just two pages long and consist of beautiful illustrations of various examples of each subject.  The text is limited to the names of the plant/animal and perhaps a short question for the reader to answer.  It is a lovely book for browsing, but you need additional resources to add to the information.

I hope that you have found some books that might be of interest but the main purpose of this blog is to remind us all that not everyone wants to read fiction and that there are a lot of very good information books out there.