Ages 5-7 [Key Stage 1] 2020

reviews added September 2020

The Robin and the Reindeer by Carmen Saldana Illustrated by Rosa Bailey Hachette Children's Group ISBN: 9781444955552 £12.99

The cover of this book is especially appealing with silver foil trees and snowflakes, a dark background, and a delightful picture of a robin and a reindeer. At the start of the story the Little Reindeer is enjoying her first time in the snow. Evocative pictures and text work well together to create the young reindeer’s sense of awe and wonder, and a sensitive picture conveys the close relationship between the Little Reindeer and her mother. The young reindeer wanders into the forest, mesmerised by the magical effect of the snow. Then she realises she is lost, and the illustrations contain darker elements. The reindeer remembers her mother’s advice and buries herself in the snow to stay warm. When she wakes she realises she is lost, alone and hungry. She catches a glimpse of a robin, whose bright red breast immediately brings warmth to the forest. The two become friends and the robin guides the reindeer. As they journey, the reindeer encounters her reflection, and then flies with the robin, gaining a new perspective on her world. At the end of the story the reindeer is reunited with her mother. The robin has gone, but Little Reindeer’s nose has turned red, like the robin’s breast, so she too can “Be brave” “light the way” as the robin did.

This atmospheric story describes feelings children will recognise, such as being lost and frightened, being brave, friendship and growing up. There are opportunities to discuss the impact snow has on the forest, seeing the world from a new perspective and the magic of the robin. The text is well written and descriptive. My favourite quote is from the robin: “Oh the world is very big, “he said wisely. “But it’s all yours – if you’re brave enough to find it.”

Highly recommended for children aged 5-7.

Brenda Marshall


Bold Tales for Brave-Hearted Boys by Susannah McFarlane Allen & Unwin ISBN 97817660524715 £12.99

As a parent who always disliked the arrogant and undisciplined Goldilocks, rudely breaking and entering with no repercussions, or even an apology to the bears, I was thrilled to read “Bold Tales for Brave-Hearted Boys” by Susannah McFarlane. McFarlane has taken four classic fairy tales and retold them with a modern twist. So Jack and the Beanstalk is written from the perspective of the disgruntled giant who has been unfairly robbed by a devious Jack; the Emperor’s New Clothes promotes the importance of standing up against collective hysteria with a central tenet of “do what’s right” and in the rather wry “Prince Leo and the Sleeping Princess” we meet a Prince whose life has been devoted to ‘princess rescuing’ training. But this modern Prince wonders why the princesses can’t rescue themselves and on hearing of the story of the eternal sleeping beauty, declares it “a bit creepy”. Hansel and Gretel is probably the most traditional retelling in the book but still benefits from a modern tweak. Each story has been beautifully illustrated by four different artists which adds to the enjoyment of the reading experience.

McFarlane gently challenges our acceptance of classic fairy tales with these deft overhauls - perfect timing in today’s society to see these classics reimagined into modern tales to suit modern beliefs. I hope the title won’t deter this book being read to brave-hearted girls, as I’m sure they would enjoy these stories just as much. After all, we do all want equality for our princes and princesses.

Hilary Payne


Little Bird Lost by Patricia Hegarty   Illustrated by Sebastian Van Doninck Stripes Publishing ISBN 9781788951173 £7.99

This book is one of a series of colourfully illustrated stories for six year olds upwards written to encourage independent reading. It tells the story of a small bird with a broken wing who is unable to continue migrating with his flock to warmer climes. Fortunately he is found by Deer who introduces him to other forest friends as they seek advice. Bear recommends that Little Bird should follow the sun to find his flock, so without hesitating, Deer offers to take him. Along the way there is much to delight in, but perilous hazards too and whenever they need comfort, they sing to one another. Time passes from Summer, through Autumn and Winter until finally they enter a joyous hopeful Spring when Deer meets a new companion, Little Bird finds his wing has healed and that his flock is returning. Little Bird and Deer part as firm and permanent friends.
This charming tale of friendship and commitment to helping others is told largely through dialogue with a descriptive rhyming couplet to introduce each season and rhythmic songs. The language is accessible but not simplistic: ‘crestfallen’, ‘scrubland’, ‘stalagmites’, ‘slinking’ might require investigation by younger readers. The whole experience is much enhanced by the beautiful painted illustrations which have the charm of Disney’s Bambi. The appealing size of the hardback version will prove both satisfying and enjoyable to newly solo readers. Put it in classrooms for 6 -7 year olds.

Sue Barrett

The Wolf’s Secret by: Myriam Dahman & Nicolas Digard Illustrated by Julia Sarda Orchard Books ISBN 978140835-5299 £12.99

Far, far away in the North, there was a forest, deep and forgotten.  Old pines wrapped around each other, protecting its mystery.  Over the treetops loomed a mountain and from the midst of the branches came a never-ending whisper.

This is the story of a wolf (the biggest ever born) and a lonely young woman with a beautiful voice, a voice that captivates the wolf to the point where he wants to befriend her, even if it means losing his reputation as a fearsome hunter.  The language is lyrical throughout, with the true storyteller’s gift for painting a picture through simile and metaphor. The illustrations by Sarda use a limited palette effectively, but this is a text that lends itself to reading aloud in the first instance, allowing free rein to pupils’ imaginations.  A book that is aimed at KS1 but which would springboard discussion into difference, trust and friendship further up the school too.

Elizabeth Broad

Tashi – 25th Anniversary Edition by Anna and Barbara Fienberg Illustrated by Kim Gamble Allen and Unwin   ISBN 9781911631859 £9.99

Tashi is listed in 1001 Children’s Books You Must Read Before You Grow Up, and with good reason.  The creation of Australian mother and daughter combination Anna and Barbara Fienberg, Tashi came into being 25 years ago, hence the reissue of three of the stories in this edition. Tashi is a small creature from another place, the product of a small boy Jack’s fertile imagination, and Tashi has very exciting adventures. In this first book, we learn how Tashi arrived in Jack’s world on the back of a swan, escaping a war lord to whom he had been sold by his parents to raise the money to emigrate.  With glorious touches of humour, Dad exasperates Jack because You always ask the wrong questions:  was the swan black or white, how much did the air tickets cost, did he arrive in the morning or afternoon?  Adults reading the stories will identify with a parent trying, not always successfully, to engage with a small boy’s inventions; children will identify with an adult interrupting the narrative.  The pencil drawings by the late Kim Gamble are beautiful – the perfect accompaniment to the text. This volume would serve as an excellent class reader for younger primary pupils, paving the way for newly confident readers to explore the other stories independently.

Elizabeth Broad

It’s Only One by Tracey Corderoy. Illustrated by Tony Neal Little Tiger Books ISBN 9781788816816 £11.99

“It’s Only One” is a child friendly, positive message about how to play your part in the local community. The story tells of a wonderful community with diversity of folk portrayed as different animals living harmoniously together. In fact, Sunnyville was so wonderful “It sparkled with Loveliness”. The inhabitants are kind, friendly, generous and complimentary and get on well until one fateful day when Rhino threw his toffee wrapper to the ground with the excuse,” It’s only one!” Well soon it wasn’t the only one and in no time at all everybody else was dropping litter, pulling up flowers and being noisy and selfish until the community they had once loved “had lost its twinkle completely.” Everyone loves a happy ending, so the book doesn’t disappoint. Mouse, recognising what has happened, begins the journey back to loveliness by replanting one small flower and soon happiness, kindness and teamwork are restored. And “Sunnyville twinkles brighter than ever.” Hooray!! Now just in case any one had missed the meaning of the story it is spelled out plainly in the last few pages where the author, Illustrator and some of the characters share their insights into how to take shared responsibility for the care of our World. I would like to think that parents, teachers and children could have discussed this without the added notes but it’s a belt and braces approach and if one child or adult has a better understanding at the end well its worth it I’d say.

Jane Macleod

Chitty Chitty Bang Bang by Ian Fleming Adapted by Peter Bently. Illustrated by Steve Antony. Hachette Children’s Books ISBN 9781444948202 £12.99

Who needs a film when you’ve goy a short, punchy picture book about a flying car! I tried to read this as if I was coming to the story for the first time with no preconceived ideas and I loved it and, more importantly, I thought children from 5-10 would love it too, read independently or read to them as reading ability allows. There is some lovely rich language and descriptive vocabulary which makes me a fan. The car “glistens and gleams and thunders into life”. The muted colours of the illustrations are rich in detail, humour and touches of both the historic and the modern. The cars on the motorway are authentic to bygone times but the children in their bike helmets keep it up to date. In traditional picture book format there is not too much print on the page and so might be a great read for a reluctant or struggling reader whilst maintaining the interest and pace for those in an older age range. This is an indulgent read for story sake. There is no need to pull out morals or discussion points just enjoy the imaginative, adventure of an ordinary family and their flying car.

Jane Macleod

Little Bird Lost by Patricia Hegarty Illustrated by Sebastian Van Doninck Stripes Publishing ISBN 9781788951173 £7.99

This book is one of a series of colourfully illustrated stories for six year olds upwards written to encourage independent reading. It tells the story of a small bird with a broken wing who is unable to continue migrating with his flock to warmer climes. Fortunately he is found by Deer who introduces him to other forest friends as they seek advice. Bear recommends that Little Bird should follow the sun to find his flock, so without hesitating, Deer offers to take him. Along the way there is much to delight in, but perilous hazards too and whenever they need comfort, they sing to one another. Time passes from Summer, through Autumn and Winter until finally they enter a joyous hopeful Spring when Deer meets a new companion, Little Bird finds his wing has healed and that his flock is returning. Little Bird and Deer part as firm and permanent friends. This charming tale of friendship and commitment to helping others is told largely through dialogue with a descriptive rhyming couplet to introduce each season and rhythmic songs. The language is accessible but not simplistic: ‘crestfallen’, ‘scrubland’, ‘stalagmites’, ‘slinking’ might require investigation by younger readers. The whole experience is much enhanced by the beautiful painted illustrations which have the charm of Disney’s Bambi. The appealing size of the hardback version will prove both satisfying and enjoyable to newly solo readers. Put it in classrooms for 6 -7 year olds.

Sue Barrett


A Bear Named Bjorn by Delphine Perret Translated from the French by Antony Shugaar. Gecko Press ISBN 9781776572694 £9.99

Bjorn lives in a cave in the forest. The walls are smooth, the ground is comfortable. Just in front there is a rough tree, perfect for back-scratching. His friends are fox, badger, rabbit, weasel, owl and chickadee. There are six short chapters in the book which tell of their adventures. In one Bjorn wins a sofa that is not really suited to the bear’s cave. In another the animals have a carnival, borrowing clothes hanging on a campers’ line, so they can dress up as humans, like the pictures in Bjorn’s catalogue. The clothes are returned with a thank you note. In Nothing Bjorn appreciates the forest world. In The Present Bjorn receives a gift from Ramona, a school girl, and tries to find the right forest object to send her. In Glasses Owl holds medical check-ups and Bjorn is given a pair of glasses. In the last chapter, the animals prepare for their annual hibernation.
These are gentle, reflective stories with some humorous touches. The book is distinctive with the text in capital letters on mint green paper, and thin black line illustrations. It is a chapter book for young children, and the whimsical nature of the stories can be enjoyed by readers of any age.

Brenda Marshall


Like The Ocean We Rise by Nicola Edwards Illustrated by Sarah Wilkins Caterpillar Books   ISBN: 97818389102977   £12.99

At the top of the back cover we read the following ' Our planet is vast and it's beautiful too, but it needs our help- it needs me, it needs you.' To any child of today that is a message that needs making over and over again. This peek-through book is one that celebrates the international youth movement and the inspired global movement created following Greta Thunberg's 'school strike for climate' and the hundreds of thousands of students who have marched.

An imaginative layout, inspirational use of words and beautiful illustrations give this book an aura that helps everyone explore the impact of humans on our earth and how all can make a difference. The author’s use of different sized text to highlight specific words is very good and will allow different aged students to be able to access the information about climate change and how the young can 'turn the tide'. These important messages are supported and made real for the reader, by the exciting illustrations.

This book is aimed at the younger child and, as it says in the inner back cover, 'You are not too small to make a difference”, but it should also be read by teachers, mothers and fathers, aunts and uncles and grandparents. A book that should be in every home, library and school to inspire all to make a difference and stand up for the future of our planet.

Paul Baker


Little Turtle and the Sea by Becky Davies    Illustrated by Jennie Poh    Little Tiger Press Ltd ISBN 9781788 815802   £11.99

This book helps younger children learn about the life cycle of the turtle and discover the problems faced by the turtle as plastic invades our oceans and seas. The story shows how the life of one turtle is a struggle. The story of the journeys of the turtle's survival over the years and how pollution in the sea and the destruction of coral reefs endangers the turtle is a must for all confident young readers aged 4 to 7. The damage caused by filling of our oceans and seas with plastic and rubbish combined with the destruction also of coral reefs is something that all young children should learn about. This book highlights to young children the need to look after our oceans and seas, and conveys this message well. It is also a story for reading to young children and a useful resource about environmental pollution for primary school teachers. The last 4 pages of the book contains a Glossary of terms, notes about the 3 r’s, the plastic problem, how it gets into oceans and the Great Garbage Patch. This superbly illustrated and beautifully written story of the Little Turtle brings home the problem while at the same time providing the young reader with some hope for the future.  A must for all primary school children and for parents and teachers to read to younger children.

Paul Baker


Mark Anchovy, Pizza Detective written and illustrated by William Goldsmith Piccadilly              ISBN 781848128613         £6.99

Colin Kingsley is just an ordinary boy, living above his parents’ pizza parlour and delivering pizzas after school.  He has ambitions to be a private detective, something that brings him to the notice of the Golden Spatula league; they are a secret network of young people who work in food establishments as a cover for their crime fighting work.  Colin, aka Mark Anchovy, is tasked to try and hunt out a notorious art thief, whilst on a school trip to Rome.  Together with his mentor Princess Skewer and the leader of the league Master Key he comes up against a range of villains, including a turncoat in the league itself.

This is a tremendously laugh out loud book full of puns about pizza, anchovies and any other toppings that you can think of.  There is fast paced action, adventure and even a bit of history as Colin visits famous sites with the rest of his class.  The book is aimed at lower KS2, or even some at the top of KS1, particularly those who want to laugh their way through a book.  It is definitely something that would add to studying about Rome or Italy, but above all it is just a fantastically great read.

Margaret Pemberton


The Happy Book Understanding Your Feelings Welbeck Children’s Publishing ISBN 9781783125463 £7.99

This book has plenty of ideas and suggestions that encourage children to notice their moods and express their thoughts and feelings rather than hide them. A good range of feelings are covered, such as happy, sad, angry, scared and worried. Scientific sections explain what happens in our brains and bodies, and there are resources for parents and carers. Bright illustrations help the book to be warm and inviting. Developed in consultation with child psychologist Sarah Davis, this is an important picture book with an emphasis on mental health and wellbeing that is perfect for sharing.

Brenda Marshall


The Tale of a Toothbrush A story of plastic in our oceans by M. G Leonard Illustrated by Daniel Riley  Walker Books  ISBN 9781406391817  £6.99

At a time when plastic is causing so many problems in our oceans and especially to the wildlife who live in our oceans, this children's book is both timely and important.  80% of plastic in oceans is from land sources and with eight million tonnes of plastic ending up in the ocean each year, it is important that, rather than just seeing images such as a hawksbill turtle struggling to free itself from a plastic bag or a sperm whale washed ashore with its stomach filled with plastic waste, young children are able to read stories that show them how families can help. In this book Sofia has a favourite yellow tooth brush which she calls Sammy.  But Sammy's bristles wear out and Sofia's mother throws him away. Sammy ends up in an ocean travelling across the world, meeting other plastic waste as he tries to get home to Sofia. This book allows the young reader to start to understand the plastic pollution problem facing the world they are growing up in. It would be a very good addition to KS1 classrooms, for both literacy and environmental learning, and would trigger both engagement and questions from the children.

Paul Baker

One World Many Colours by Ben Lerwill Illustrated  by Alette Straathof Quarto Publishing (  ISBN 9780711249820     £12.99

This book is a lyrical celebration of the vibrant colours to be found in the world we all live in.   It is an amazing introduction to geography told through the colour spectrum.  Travelling around the world visiting different places and environments, the reader is taken on a celebration of both nature and human culture which promotes an inspiring and heartfelt message of unity.  It is a book of discovery, a kaleidoscopic journey of the many colours that make up the world we live in.  A most engaging and lyrical book that should be in every library, KS1 and early KS2 classroom and, I would suggest, every young reader's bedroom.  Teachers in primary schools could be using this to allow pupils to understand what a magical, colourful and varied world we share.  The special colours of white, pink, yellow, blue, green and red allow the pupils to promote a message that the author sums up on the last page of this terrific book.  'We might have different languages and beliefs, different foods and traditions but we all share the same world.  That is why it is so important that we cherish it'.

Paul Baker

The Pigeon Has To Go To School! written and illustrated by Mo Willems Walker ISBN 9781406389012 £6.99

Fans of Don’t Let The Pigeon Drive The Bus and other titles will be delighted that this beguiling, drama queen of a pigeon is having another outing. Created by a former writer and animator on Sesame Street, this bird carries all the hallmarks of wit, humour and original voice we might expect from such a background. In this book, the pigeon carries on a one-sided conversation with the invisible ‘other’ who plans to send him to school. With all the outrage he can muster, he summons every argument he can think of as to why he should not go, until he admits he is scared. Now he lists all the things he is worried about: maths, reading (with just one eye - a lovely Willems joke about his own illustration), finger paints sticking to his feathers, even lunch. He describes how helpful it would be to have a safe place to practise all this first: an exact description of school! Thus caught out, he surrenders reluctantly - until he spots the school bus, “Step aside!” Large print in speech bubbles and a wonderfully expressive pigeon on each pastel-coloured page, this is a perfect book to read aloud to reassure pre-schoolers and to relish with Reception/Y1 as they reflect on how far they’ve come. KS2 pupils could look at Americanisms and even design their own ‘worry book’ for younger pupils.

Sue Barrett


Look Up at the Stars by Katie Cotton Illustrated by Asian Lora Frances Lincoln ISBN 9781786037725 £12.99

It’s night-time and a parent and young child hug while looking through the window at the starry night. The child longs for a star to hold and his parent promises to catch one for him. There follows a quest through woods, across seas and through snow to the highest point they can reach, Mount Digger Doo. Although the parent has to admit catching a star is impossible, looking down from far above the child notices a brightness which seems to be coming from their own house, and they head back to discover their own special star, in the warmth of their loving home. The story celebrates the wonder of the stars, imagination and the love between a parent and child. The rhyming text reads like a lullaby with the voice of the parent interspersed with that of the child’s repeated refrain. Ideally suited as a bedtime read, within a school setting it is the stunning and detailed watercolour illustrations which truly shine, some of which might provide a springboard for imaginative writing in a Year 2 class.

Sue McGonigle


I See, I See written and illustrated by Robert Henderson Allen and Unwin ISBN 9781911631743 £9.99

An original inter-active book. The pages are designed to be shared. Readers face each other across the book. The reader with a yellow star reads out first, and then the second reader responds. The illustrations represent situations that can be interpreted from different points of view, such as I see up and I see down; I see smile, and I see frown. Rhyming text adds to the fun. The book can be turned round so each reader experiences different viewpoints and sees that no one view is wholly correct. This an intelligent way of considering prejudice and diversity. It is ideal for young children, but older children would benefit from it too. Highly recommended. Age 5+

Brenda Marshall


Wilfred and Olbert’s EPIC Prehistoric Adventure written and illustrated by Lomp; Little Tiger ISBN: 978178881090-6 £7.99

This is a brilliant and disappointing book, both at the same time. The storyline is aimed at KS1 – mad scientists use a time machine to travel back through time – yet the language is very sophisticated. Wilfred and Olbert travel back through time. They pass through many geological periods – the Devonian; Carboniferous; Triassic; Jurassic; Cretaceous, Neogene and Quatenary periods. Each is really well illustrated by lots of detailed pictures of the creatures living at the time – but most pictures are so small that it is hard to really visualise the creature, despite the detail. What, in my opinion, is missing most, despite the illustrations, is a feel of what it was really like in each of these periods, despite the clever artwork. And there is no real way of seeing just how long each of these periods of time were. An attractive book, yet it raises more questions than it answers. I think it might appeal to older pupils with an interest in dinosaurs, but it is hard to pick a target audience.

Alf Wilkinson

Little Tiger Rescue by Rachael Delahaye Stripes Publishing Ltd ISBN 9781788951845 £5.99

This paperback story book for young readers is about a Fliss and her magical adventures to save wild animals in danger all around the world. Fliss stumbles upon a temple in a Rain Forest where she meets a tiny abandoned tiger cup who loves to play. She sets out to reunite the cub with its family before the Monsoon arrives bringing the heavy rains. The twelve exciting chapters keep the young reader fully involved in an adventure, full of important messages. This book paints a picture while improving the reader’s literacy. A lovely story for young readers aged 5-8. It is another title in a series of Little Animal Rescue Books. Already published are Little Lion Rescue, Little Dolphin Rescue and Little Penguin Rescue"

Paul Baker


Wild Wolf written and illustrated by Fiona French Otter-Barry ISBN 9781910959930 £12.99

I am Wild Wolf, guardian spirit to the people who live in the high mountains. Many times, I have seen that danger is not outside in the forest, but inside humans…. So begins the retelling of a traditional tale of the Algonquin people, but with a happier ending than the original. When Bravest Warrior is rejected by Proud Girl, he vows revenge. He fashions a man made from ice, clothes it with his finest garments, and inevitably proud girl falls in love and marries. Ice Man of course melts in the sun, leaving only his fine clothes for Proud Girl to find. Were it not for the ministrations of Wild Wolf, she would have died from the cold. Bravest Warrior is overcome with remorse at his actions, comes to find her and she returns with him to the Great Lake, no longer a proud woman. The illustrations are stunning, inspired by the beadwork, needlework and art of the Algonquin people, and the tale has apparently been approved by one of their storytellers. So far so worthy, and good to know. This retelling lacks the natural flow and rhythm of an oral tale, which does not do the illustrations justice and which has the potential to reduce the power of the tale. It would however be a pity not to let pupils experience the work of this talented illustrator, perhaps using it as inspiration for their own retellings.
Elizabeth Broad


Flyntlock Bones: The Sceptre of the Pharaohs by Derek Keilty Illustrated by Mark Elvins Scallywag Press ISBN 9781912650408 £7.99

Young Flynn leaves Baskervile orphanage and applies for a job as cabin boy on the Black Hound. Flynn develops new skills. He is befriended by Red, a girl rigger, and learns to rub shoulders with the rest of the crew, including Drudger who bullies him. But this is no ordinary pirate ship Captain John Hamish Watkins leads a team of pirate private investigators. Miss Kristina Wrinkly, curator of the Gypshun Museum, has approached Watkins for help. Several priceless ancient artefacts have been stolen and Watkins and his crew are on a mission to find the sceptre of the Pharoahs. Their investigation involves, among other things, Captain Morihearty,”who looks part pirate, part shark”, a library, a map, a snake, a cavern underground river, the lost ship of King Tut and several mummies. An exciting, action-packed adventure highly recommended for children aged 6.+

Brenda Marshall


The Story of Inventions by Catherine Barr and Steve Williams Illustrated by Amy Husband Frances Lincoln ISBN 9780711245365 £12.99

Information books have seen a huge resurgence in the last few years and it is always interesting to see what new developments are out there. This book is a basic look at the history of inventions and takes two different approaches. It starts with a chronological look at some very well know concepts that we cannot imagine doing without. This includes wheels, books, time-keeping and astronomy. The book then moves on to the ways that we have developed the basics and have created the industrial revolution, trains, planes, cars, explosives, computers and finally plastic; with all the issues that it brings.

This book is well laid out and covers a range of inventions; however it is very much about concepts and does not go into any depths when describing the various machines and ideas. This is understandable as the book is aimed at KS1 and lower KS2, but it does make the reader want to find out more, which is an important factor. This volume is fully illustrated throughout with stylized images that are childlike in their interpretation. The pages are bright and attractive and use devices such as winding roads and timelines to show how the inventions developed over time. This works as a basic introduction but schools will need it as part of a wider range of materials. There is a basic glossary but no contents or index.

Margaret Pemberton


Dear Earth by Isabel Otter Illustrated by Clara Anganuzzi Caterpillar Books ISBN 9781848579415 £11.99

This book tells of Tessa who wants everyone to know how special our planet is and how there is a chance to save the Earth if enough children share the message she wrote to Earth. The story encourages children’s imaginations to develop through the relationship of the grandfather with his granddaughter, enabling the young reader to explore and appreciate the world. This book is so important at present as we need to educate future generations on the importance of the planet’s protection and how fragile our wonderful planet is and how we need to appreciate it and protect it. At the end of the story readers can engage with fact pages which give more information about environmental issues and practical advice for making a difference, no matter how young they are. Beautifully illustrated this is an important story for the young reader growing up in the world today. Age range 3-6. Publication date March 2020

Paul Baker


Mr Birdsnest and the House Next Door by Julia Donaldson. Illustrated by Hannah Shaw Barrington Stoke ISBN: 9781781125755 £6.99

Another in the super Little Gems series with their high quality stories by renowned authors. Each uses a dyslexia friendly font, tinted paper to reduce visual stress, and a limited amount of text broken up by colourful illustrations to encourage both newly independent readers and those who require just a little more support. This story, written from the children’s viewpoint, is about a family forced to move house in order to accommodate an increasingly forgetful granny. Little brother Elmo is subversively funny and highly imaginative, making up names for people and the dilapidated house they view, which he immediately dubs the “Jungle House” because of the animal wallpaper and undoubtedly ‘bird-eating spider” lurking in a wardrobe! Sadly the parents decide to buy the neat, conventional house next door, but the children continue to play in their first love until a strange bearded man buys it and moves in. Has he really kidnapped Granny, seen at his window? The children need to stage a rescue... The story is well paced in four chapters with clear, non-patronising text, (which, contrary to our expectations of Donaldson, does not rhyme), with no extraneous words to interrupt the flow and the mixed race family evident in the lovely cartoon-like illustrations will make it relevant to many. It’s funny, even anarchic in places and has flaps which open to reveal either corny jokes or how to draw an exotic bird. What a bonus! Have this series at your fingertips for 5-8 year olds.

Sue Barret

BEE Nature’s Tiny Miracle A Peek-through Book by Britta Teekentrap Illustrated by Britta Teckentrup Little Kids and imprint of Little Tiger Group ISBN 9781788816281 £ 6.99

This delightful story book is for sharing with young children. Allowing them to involve themselves with the beautiful illustrations adds a sense of excitement and “What next?” to a day in the life of the bee and other bees. As the bee journeys from the woods to the meadow at the end of the book, a miraculous journey takes place in a magical way. Bees, once vital to a healthy environment, are so important and this book shows young children how useful they are as pollinators providing a stable and healthy environment. This book helps readers to recognise that, despite the loss of habitat due to the use of pesticides and climate change, bees need to be seen as awesome and vital for the future. This story book is both a tale of wonder beautifully told and a magical insight for young, (Nursery and KS1), children.

Paul Baker

Museum Kittens The Midnight Visitor by Holly Webb Illustrated by Sarah Lodge Little Tiger ISBN 9781788951876 £5.99

When the visitors have left at the end of the day, the museum cats come out to play. Peter is a scrawny, wet black kitten who appears on the steps of the museum. Tasha is kind and shows him round the museum but other museum cats are less welcoming. Tasha wants to show Peter’s worth and takes him on a rat hunt, but things do not go according to plan in the Dinosaur Gallery! Eventually it is Peter who helps solve the problem. This changes how the other cats react to him, and Peter himself feels accepted and decides he wants to be a museum cat. The characters of the cats and their relationships provide much to discuss. Peter’s own situation is thought-provoking as he knows little about his background and feels he does not belong at the start of the book. It is also interesting to see the different areas of the museum from a kitten’s perspective. The map at the start of the book is a useful reference point. At the back of the book there is information about the real museum cats at the Hermitage and the British Museum. This is a great story for children aged 5-8. I look forward to the next book in the series.

Brenda Marshall


Trouble! Dirty Bertie by Alan Macdonald Illustrated by David Roberts Stripes Publishing ISBN: 9781788950251 £ 5.99

Another exciting adventure about Dirty Bertie. In the first story he has forgotten about a maths test and tries to use a magic potion to make Miss Boot forget about it. All does not go as planned. Next he is at Know-All Nick’s house for a sleepover. Neither boy enjoys the evening so they join forces in Operation Home Time. In Bully, Bertie succeeds in teaching the school bully a lesson. The Dirty Bertie books are a hugely popular series. There are scrapes, fun, bad habits, surprises and a range of situations and emotions with which young children can identify. The stories are funny, and move at a quick pace. Delightful illustrations enhance the text. Highly recommended.

Brenda Marshall


What Can You See: On the Farm? By Kate Ware Illustrated by Maria Peters Little Tiger ISBN 9781912756409 £7.99

An excellent book in the spot and count series. There are pages with peep holes and layered landscapes that invite the reader to explore the farm. Text is dotted round each page including facts and questions such as “Can you find five ladybirds?” This interactive approach encourages children to look more closely at the illustrations, which repay closer study and inspire curiosity. We move from the farm shop to sheep in the field, pigs in the orchard, swans and ducks on the pond, a wheat field with a combine harvester to cows and chickens in the barn. There is much to explore, learn and discuss. The design is superb, and the book is robust and good value for money. Highly recommended

Brenda Marshall


The Story Puppy by Holly Webb   Stripes   ISBN 9781788952200 £5.99

Holly Webb is a very popular writer. This book tells the story of Jack. He does not find reading easy and is unhappy at school. Mattie, his sister, tells him about Daisy, a new puppy in the shelter who had been dumped by the side of the road. Daisy is nervous and unhappy. She doesn’t like people touching her. When Jack and his sister visit the animal centre. Jack meets Daisy and decides to do everything he can to help her. He practises his reading, sitting next to her. He continues to visit the centre and their relationship grows. Daisy becomes more confident. Then another family start to notice her. Jack worries that they will adopt her, and that he will lose his friend. I recommend this book because children can relate to several aspects of the story. There are opportunities to consider happiness at school, the way the adults approach Jack’s reading problems, the need to express your feelings and not expect others to guess what you think, and how past experiences impact on character. A thought-provoking read for children aged 6-8.

Brenda Marshall


The World of Whales Get to Know the Giants of the Ocean by Darcy Dobell Illustrated by Becky Thorns Little Gestalten ISBN 9783899558302 £16.95

A most attractive book that teaches children about whales and their world. The table of contents is illustrated, and the opening of the book sets the engaging tone – “A little Pwhooowhh-wup!! That is the sound of a whale taking a breath as it breaks through the waves.”  We are told the story of the evolution of the whale, with a timeline, and an explanation of how whales are suited to spending their lives in water.  Next we meet a variety of aquatic creatures and learn about their appearance and character, such as Fin Whale, the greyhound of the sea, and the Humpback Whale, the big performer.  Specific species are featured with useful measuring sticks, divers and buses to give an idea of comparative size. I love the fold out segment of the blue whale. Illustrations give a sense of the environment including details such as seaweed and fish. Short paragraphs contain interesting information, presented in an accessible way. There are “Did you know?” facts such as “Did you know that nine out of ten of the living creatures on our planet are found in the sea?” We learn about whale sounds; whale research; whales and people; the oceans, threats to whales and how we can help their conservation. Highly recommended as a fun, informative introduction for children aged 5 upwards that will encourage an appreciation of the world of whales.

Brenda Marshall


Ella May Does It Her Way by Mick Jackson  Illustrated by Andrea Stegmaier  Words and Pictures ISBN: 9781786039040 £11.99

Ella and her mum live on a houseboat. Her mum introduces her to some new food, and tells her daughter “It’s good to try new things.” Ella embraces this idea with gusto and we see her in a variety of scenarios such as walking backwards, and reading a book backwards. The illustrations are a delight and enhance the text.  The story concludes with the words, “It’s good to try new things!” and this is the spirit that the book celebrates. There is much to discuss, and to enjoy. Ella May is a charming, bright, resourceful, independent feisty, inventive girl who “likes to do things her way” and I hope there will be more books about her. Ideal for children aged 4 – 6.

Brenda Marshall


Rabbit and Bear, A Bite in the Night by Julian Gough Illustrated by Jim Field  Hachette Children’s ISBN 9781444921748   £5.99

Fourth in the Rabbit and Bear series, this traditional style tale sees the friends discovering that some of their favourite trees have gone, appearing to have been eaten.  They find the culprit is not the monster they feared, but the newly arrived Beaver, doing what beavers do.  As beavers are being reintroduced to many areas, it was a little worrying to read of the apparent destruction happening here, but it turns out that the action of beavers does benefit most of their environment. It’s not good news for creatures who live underground however...such as a rabbit. In the end friendship prevails and the woodland creatures work together for a happy solution.

There’s humour to carry the story along and the retro-coloured illustrations work well. No less than Eoin Colfer and Neil Gaiman give high praise to previous titles in the series, so this is obviously well worth a read, especially for encouraging series readers. Age range 3 – 6.

Pam Dowson


Adventure Duck vs the Armadillo Army by Steve Cole Illustrated by Aleksei Bitskoff Orchard Books ISBN 978140835 6852 £5.99

A meteorite strike causes strange mutations in the animal world creating super-powered creatures; some good and some evil. In Mexico Power Pug is busy seeking world domination, using his mind controlling powers to destroy the rainforest and all chocolate factories with the help of an army of armadillos. His aim is to become ‘master of all chocolate and master of the world.’ Luckily there are several other super powered creatures to thwart his plans. Unlikely heroes Adventure Duck, Neon Zebra and Senorita Spitfire team up and pool their resources, eventually overcoming the armadillo threat, dispensing with the evil pug and restoring the rainforest so its terrified inhabitants can return.

This is a lively, zany, fast paced adventure story. With lots of humour in the word play and illustrations and a comic style approach, this book is likely to prove popular as an independent read in years 3 or 4.  Children who enjoy Adventure Duck’s first exploits can look forward to more in the series.

Sue McGonigle


The Worrysaurus by Rachel Bright.   Illustrated by Chris Chatterton Orchard Books  ISBN: 978140356135  £12.99

We all know a Worrysaurus: a child or adult who tends to overthink things and worry about what might happen instead of living in and enjoying the moment. Such is the theme of this charming tale which begins on a beautiful day when little Worrysaurus wakes to the lovely plans he has made for the day ahead. Soon, however, doubts about whether he has packed enough food and drink for his picnic grow into fears about getting lost before becoming a real butterfly of nerves in his tummy when a lizard warns of an impending storm. From his dark place of gloomy thoughts, Worrysaurus first remembers his mother’s advice to, ‘Chase that butterfly away!’  and then he looks through and draws comfort from the contents of his happy tin. His fears and little butterfly fly away leaving him to enjoy his picnic with his new lizard friend.


Brightly illustrated double page spreads, rhyming text with key words in a larger font (although “gotten” to aid scansion seemed a pity) all make this an easy book to use in shared reading with Yr R/1. Opportunities to make their own happy tins and to discuss their worries will arise naturally. I particularly identified with “Worrysaurus liked it when he knew what lay ahead”. Anyone else?

Sue Barrett


The Mystery Kitten by Holly Webb Illustrated by Sophy Williams  Stripes ISBN 9781788952194 £5.99

Elsa is moving house. It is an exciting but scary time. Elsa will get her own room, which is good, but she might find it odd sleeping without Sara every night. At night she is troubled by strange noises at night. Eventually she finds the cause - a little black kitten living in the attic.  She calls him Pepper. Initially she conceals him from her sister and father. She is keen to adopt her new friend, but the family have to find out who Pepper belongs to and why he has been left. The story deals with situations that will resonate with children – moving home, leaving and making friends, going to primary school alone when your sister has started at secondary school, concealing and revealing secrets. Pepper’s story comes as a surprise and there are good messages about jumping to the wrong conclusions. Charming illustrations enhance the text. Highly recommended for 5 – 8 year olds.

Brenda Marshall


Jasper and Scruff Hunt for the Golden Bone by Nicola Colton Stripes ISBN 9781788950534 £5.99

Jasper and Scruff are in their new bookshop when they receive delivery of a rare book, written by the famous Black Whiskers. In it is a treasure map, and the two embark on a mission to find the golden bone. There is plenty of fun along the way, deciphering clues, visiting the seaside and the theatre, and outwitting the dastardly deeds of the Sophistocats. This is an ideal book for emergent readers who will enjoy the fast pace of the story, the illustrations, the dialogue and the fun with language, such as Snootington-on-Sea and Alvis Pawsley .  Great fun for age 5-7. Publication date  October 2019  Age range 5-7

Brenda Marshall


Ivanhoe Swift Left Home At Six by Jane Godwin Illustrated by:  A.Yi Allen and Unwin   ISBN 978-1911631170    £11.99

This is another story about a child’s limitless imagination.  Ivanhoe wants to see the world beyond the garden gate – he has clearly been cherished, read to and had songs sung to him by his parents, and now he wants to experience some of the things he has seen in books and heard in song for himself.  He packs a suitcase with a map, a kite and some binoculars, as well as more practical items such as toothbrush and toothpaste, clean socks and pants and a jumper.  Did his parents go along with this play and suggest items to pack?  Or is this what Ivanhoe thinks he would take with him if he left home?  The song resonating in his head as he leaves for the Tall Tree is one sung to him by his mother, and is full love and security and encouragement of imagination:  Go well as you travel my little love, over the world as you roam….But if you grow weary and tire of your journey, then let the sea bring you home. As Ivanhoe’s world expands he will meet a range of friendly and less friendly children, as in this story.  And in the end, yes, he decides he has seen enough and wants the safety and security of home and his parents.  The illustrations deliver the range of emotions a young child experiences and are full of movement and action.  Did he actually get further than the garden gate or was it an afternoon with a friend, playing imaginative games?  Discuss. Publication date  June 2019   Age range 3 - 7

Elizabeth Broad

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