City of Rust by Gemma Fowler and Karl James Mountford

I have been a fan of science fiction since my teens, when I discovered authors such as John Christopher, with his Tripods trilogy.  Working as a library assistant when I left school gave me the opportunity to explore a whole range of genres and publishers and for Sci-Fi the lead publisher was definitely Gollancz (with their iconic bright yellow covers).  It as unfortunate that for many people the subject became less popular as we faced the reality of moving into space and the area of fantasy seems to become the replacement genre. Luckily there has been a move back towards Sci-Fi at all age ranges.

Chicken House, 97890655436

The story is set in a future world where humanity has found that the only way to deal with the amount of metal rubbish is to send it in to orbit around the earth, where it joins the space debris accumulated from satellites and rockets.  The heroine is Railey, a young girl who lives with her grandmother and has ambitions to be a champion drone racer, with the help of her bio-robotic gecko called Atti.  Things have been getting more difficult as her engineer/inventor grandmother begins to suffer memory loss and making a living is even more difficult.  When Railey is chased by a bounty hunter and thinks that her gran has been killed, she has to make a run for it; finding herself rescued by the members of a space junk vessel.  As they uncover a plot to  crash a huge ‘trash bomb’ into the earth, their loyalties are tested and they find themselves questioning the world that they live in.

The world that Gemma Fowler has created is one that has been completely overwhelmed by the amount of metal that has been discarded and it has become a dystopian place of those that have (and live in Glass City) and those that have not and live in places such as Boxville, named from the shipping containers which provide homes.  There is a real sense that we should be treating this as a window into our future if we do not do something to change the disposable world that we live in.  Scarily we have had news within the last week or so about a rocket crashing into the Indian ocean; very much a case of life imitating art!  There are elements in the plot that take me back to some of my favourite films, with the drone racing being very familiar to those who love the Star Wars series.  However this is a totally original take on the society that we live in.  There have been several books in the past that are situated in rubbish tips and but this goes several stages further and shows us as destroying the space that surrounds us.

There are some fascinating characters who are trying to find their way in this terrible world, but I think that my favourite has to be Atti, the gecko.  He is a mix of real animal ,but with the addition of bionic improvements, and he actually talks; above all he has a really positive attitude that you can’t help but love.  The ending of this story resolved the danger that the young people have faced, but we are left with the slightly open ending, which allows us to hope that we will have further adventures as they start their lives as ‘Junkers’, cleaning up the space around them.

 

Gemma Fowler

photographybytarik-GemmaFowler-Headshot-002.jpg

photo is on her website https://www.gemmarfowler.com/about

National Non-Fiction November

National Non-Fiction November is a celebration of Information books that has been around for the last few years and which grew out of National Non-Fiction Day.  It was founded by the Federation of Children’s book Groups and they are still responsible for its success.

#NNFN2020 and #ThePlanetWeShare

This year the theme is The Planet we share, which is something that has been highlighted by many people, but especially Sir David Attenborough and Greta Thunberg.  The three titles that I have been asked to review look at different areas of concern, but they have all acted as catalysts to get young people engaged in the world around them and in motivating them to become involved in creating solutions for the future.

All of these titles are published  by the educational publisher Raintree.  The company was founded in the 1990s as Heinemann Library and then in 2004 they introduced Raintree as part of the Group.  Four years later the publishers were brought by the American company Capstone and have been part of that group ever since.  They have always specialized in information books for the curriculum and most school libraries, especially in primary schools, will have a wide selection of their titles.

“You are eating Plastic every day” by Danielle Smith-Llera  is a book that is aimed at the lower secondary age group and possibly the top of KS2.  The text is easily accessible and looks at the world wide impact that plastic is having on our environment.  The illustrations are full of impact and many young readers will find the images quite shocking.  the book has been published in 2020 and it is good to see that the pictures and text reflect current realities. This is actually quite a short book, with only 57 pages of text, but it also has a good glossary, index and bibliography.  The only thing I would say about the bibliography is that some of the reference might be aimed at a more mature audience than the book itself.  However this will make an excellent addition to the school library and act as a great introduction to further research.

https://www.raintree.co.uk/media/15066/you-are-eating-plastic-every-day-activity-sheet.pdf

“Climate Change and You” by Emily Raij is aimed at a younger audience.  I would definitely place it in the lower KS2 range, although it could be used in KS1 to support an introduction to this topic.  The text is well laid out, with short sentences, large font and a pictures on every double page spread.  I particularly like the highlighted terms in the main text which are then explained in the glossary at the back; this makes linking the two areas quite easy.  There is a short index as well as the glossary and a very short list other other books and websites’ although all the other books are Raintree titles.  The publication date is shown as 2021, so I have been lucky in being shown it at such an early time.  It is definitely one of those titles that will become a staple of the school library and classroom and it will provide a good introduction to a vital subject.

“Saving British Wildlife” by Claire Throp is part of a series called ‘success stories’, which rather gives the hint that this is going to be about positive changes that have happened over the last few years.  The book starts out by talking about a survey that was undertaken in 2016, which resulted in a report called “The State of Nature“.  It provided the frightening statistic that 56% of our wildlife was in decline.  The book then goes on to explain the various issues which have  affected our wildlife and the ways that organizations and individuals have tried to improve matters.  Most of the book looks at different types of wildlife, so there is a chapter on birds, mammals, fish, insects and amphibians, before looking at those species that are still in danger.  This book also uses the highlighted text and glossary link system as well as having a good index and bibliography with quite a few online links.  Once again this book is aimed at KS2 and the wonderful illustrations and attractive layout make it very appealing.

The latter two titles are both give a book banding of ‘Dark Red’, which many schools will find helpful.

The Wonder Tree by Teresa Heapy and Izzy Burton

Egmont, 9781405292887

We are living in a time that many young children find worrying and they need reassurance that everything will be fine.  As adults we have all been through a variety of occasions where things have been difficult, but we have learnt that these things pass and the world settles down for us.  However very young people are often seeing and feeling these events for the first time, so they do not have that security blanket in place.

this is the delightful story of little owl and how he is worried when the wind start blowing the leaves off the tree, where he lives with his mother.  However his mother is there to comfort him and explain why the tree is losing the leaves.   She goes on to explain the wonders of a tree’s root system and the annual cycle that nature goes through; she remembers when she learnt about such things from her parents and how their memory is entwined with these changes.  The mother gradually helps little owl to understand the wonder of nature and the way that we are all part of this beautiful cycle of life.                   

Teresa Heapy has created a simple but lovely story that will help young children feel more grounded at this time of uncertainty.   The little owl is inquisitive and  yet worried by the events going on around him, so he depends on his mother for the comfort and explanations that help him cope.  This is a story that reads well and will be very popular, not just in the home, but also in nursery and library storytimes.  The illustrations by Izzy Burton are really bold and colourful.  They are full of energy and detail that really helps bring the story to life; giving the audience a chance to explore the pages of the book. This is her picture book debut and it looks to be the start of a very promising career.

Given that we are moving towards Autumn this book will prove to be of particular interest to adults who want to help children understand the natural change in conditions.  This really is a charming, thoughtful and informative story that I really enjoyed.