Ages 5-7 [Key Stage 1] 2015

The Cleo Stories: The Necklace and The Present, Libby Gleeson, illustrated by Freya Blackwood

Allen and Unwin ISBN 9781743315279 £8.99

Australian author Libby Gleeson and illustrator Freya Blackwood have collaborated to create this delightful hardback storybook, which contains two short stories: The Necklace and The Present. The main character, Cleo, is a worrier. Whether it is because she doesn’t fit in with her friends, or because she doesn’t want to let her parents down, Cleo deals with issues that affect many little girls of her age. The cleverly written stories enable the reader to empathise with Cleo as she solves her problems by using her creative talents. Set in Australia, tomboyish Cleo wears a Christmas t-shirt to a party in The Necklace. The Cleo Stories could be used to teach children about weather differences between the UK and Australia. Furthermore, Cleo opens her piggy bank in The Present to find a few dollars and cents. These cultural differences would make an ideal talking point either in school or at home. With its simple vocabulary and beautiful illustrations, this would make an ideal read for young girls who are beginning to read independently. Alternatively, they would make a great bedtime story.
Lauren M Freedman, key stage 2 teacher, Shirley Community Primary School, Cambridge
Online review 2015

Could a Shark do Gymnastics? Camilla de le Bédoyère, illustrated by Aleksei Bitskoff

QED Publishing ISBN 9781781715819 £8.99

This book provides as novel way of engaging a young reader and providing information about sharks. Questions are posed such as ‘What if a shark went to the dentist? Answer: ‘He would be a long time as great white sharks have nearly 240 teeth’. He wouldn’t need a filling because ‘sharks lose teeth all the time but they keep growing new ones’. Cartoon-style illustrations both amuse and help to reinforce learning. Different fonts are used to highlight key information. If a shark played tennis he could use his big fins and powerful tail to hit a ball. A shark has super senses and can tell when fish are swimming behind or below him, even sensing their heartbeat. Sharks have an amazing sense of smell and can detect a teaspoon of wee in a swimming pool. This helps them identify their prey. The final double-page of the book is a world map showing the areas where the shark lives, and a fact file. The last page of the book is a postcard from the shark, which reinforces some key facts about him. Children could write back, or create their own postcards in the guise of other creatures. They can pose their own questions, think up new scenarios and do research to find out the answers. The book is highly recommended for key stage 1 children and others who would enjoy having fun and learning about sharks at the same time.
Brenda Marshall, Head of English, Port Regis, Motcombe Park, Shaftesbury
Online review 2015

Daisy's Big Dig, Angie Morgan

Frances Lincoln Children's Books ISBN 9781847804631 £6.99

Daisy lives in Magnolia Street. She knows and speaks to all her neighbours, but they do not even know each other, which mystifies her. When she discovers Mr Hofmeister has hurt his back gardening, she and her friend, Lucy come up with a plan: a digging party, with the added enticement of hidden treasure! To her amazement everyone comes. The student Dave dig brilliantly, Tarquin and Professor Flowerdew find lots in common, while Mrs Benjamin occupies the Lemming children allowing their mother a well earned rest. Treasure, it would appear, comes in many guises!

Beautifully written and illustrated in a style reminiscent of Lauren Child, this is a very appealing book about the benefits to all of community and neighbourliness and Reception children could talk about many of these ideas in Circle Time. The child-friendly font is encouraging for young readers, particularly where there is a lot of text on a page. Writing for Y1 children would arise easily from the book, with opportunities to create their own posters and invitations. Planning their own community event would then give this writing real purpose.
Sue Barrett, former primary deputy head and senior lecturer in Primary Education, Canterbury Christ Church University , former primary deputy head and senior lecturer in Primary Education, Canterbury Christ Church University
Online review 2015

Dear Bunny, Katie Cotton, illustrated by Blanca Gómez

Frances Lincoln Children’s Books ISBN 9781847806857 £10.99

One ought not to judge a book by its cover, but the simple yet striking illustration of a girl with her toy rabbit, gazing at a multitude of beautiful, golden-winged butterflies, sums up this heartfelt story. Ideal for KS1, the book is a young girl’s explorations of what she likes best, taking the format of a letter to her toy bunny. It highlights the simple joys of daily life, and encourages the development of a positive attitude in young children; it demonstrates that there is space in every day for play and rest, joy and sorrow. Gomez’s collage-like illustrations capture these sentiments perfectly; they are colourful but uncluttered, giving a calming overall feel to the book. Although evidently an ideal bedtime story, Dear Bunny would also lend itself to letter writing, as children could follow the structure quite closely, whilst exploring the small joys they find in their own routines. The reader leaves this book with a sense of gratitude for a peaceful daily routine, for the beautiful world which surrounds us and for the friendships of early childhood.
Rachel Cordon
Online review

Dixie O'Day: Up, Up and Away! Shirley Hughes and Clara Vulliamy

Random House ISBN 9781782300243 £9.99

We’ve all heard of eating 5 a day, but most people don’t know what they are missing, unless they are reading a Dixie O’Day. The talented and much loved author Shirley Hughes has collaborated with her daughter Clara Vulliamy, for the first time, to create the Dixie O’Day series. With seven short chapters in each book, the Dixie O’Day series has been cleverly designed for young readers to read over a week. With its vibrant, eye-catching illustrations and lovable characters, Up, Up and Away is a fun read for primary school children. The interactivity created by an illustration that spans over a double page is an added bonus, as are the well thought out questions in the quiz at the back of the book. Whether completing these independently, with an older sibling, a friend or an adult, these questions challenge the reader to interpret and understand what they have read.

Although this book is aimed at younger readers, many of its features would be relevant for an upper KS2 reader. Educators could use it as a guided reading book, in which children can pick out examples of a wide range of verbs, adverbs, punctuation and a variety sentence structure. Up, Up and Away is a superb read with a personal touch. Ideal for educators and children who are growing in reading confidence, Up, Up and Away can be read either aloud with an adult or independently by more confident readers.
Lauren M Freedman, key stage 2 teacher, Shirley Community Primary Schoo
Online review 2015

The Dog Lover’s Guide, Honor Head

QED Publishing ISBN 9781781719176 £7.99

A great introduction to factual texts for a young audience, this is a bright and informative book that will appeal to a wide range of pupils (particularly KS1 and early KS2). It is packed full of detail for any prospective dog-owner, as well as providing top hints and tips for those who already have a four-legged friend of their own! It is clearly and concisely written, and includes a glossary and an index. It therefore provides a useful reference point when teaching how to write informative texts and as a comparison in style to fiction texts. Chapter headings include ‘Choosing your puppy’, ‘Visit to the Vet’ and ‘Out and About’ and though there are no illustrations, the book is bursting with vivid photography. The text is well structured and makes good use of bold type and spacing to highlight key points. This means it should appeal to developing readers who will be guided as to the content of the writing through the chapter headings, bold print and accompanying pictures. A great gift for a budding pet-owner as well as a useful addition to the school library, this fun and informative book ticks many boxes.
Laura Davies, Project Development Coordinator for Fair Foundations, Chwarae Teg
Online review 2015

Fast and Furry Racers. The Silver Serpent Cup, Jonathan Emmet, illustrated by Ed Eaves

OUP ISBN 9780192738622 £6.99
Anyone who has fond memories of Wacky Races with Dastardly Dick, Muttley and crew, will love this. It is the tale of the simultaneous land, sea and air race from Furryville to Featherport, a thousand miles away. Seals, crocodiles, walruses, giraffes and elephants are just some of the creatures with outlandish vehicles designed to fulfil this race's only rule: get there first! Brilliantly illustrated in tremendous detail by Ed Eaves, the reader can almost hear the revving, the tyre squealing and the shouts of the crowds. The vehicles are fabulous and wonderfully inventive, so that many children will want to design their own. Add to the mix, the whiff of potential foul play from Al McNasty and all children will be on the side of the underdog and will cheer the final unexpected outcome. The rhyming text is a delight to read aloud and the blueprint endpapers are positively inspired. This is going to become a real favourite amongst KS1 car and machine fanatics and those who like things to be fair!
Sue Barrett, former primary deputy head and senior lecturer in Primary Education, Canterbury Christ Church University
Online review 2015

Flyaway, Lesley Barnes

Frances Lincoln Children’s Books ISBN 9781847806451 £10.00

This is a beautiful hardback book by author and illustrator Lesley Barnes. It follows a princess and her pet bird as it escapes the confines of its birdcage and travels around the castle grounds. The drawings in this book are really what make it so impressive – the front cover is speckled with gold leaves and this makes it feel very special and invites the reader inside. I think it would make a wonderful gift for both younger and older primary children, with the imagery on each page giving plenty of inspiration for discussion whilst the written text is kept as a background to the main event. Readers are invited to ‘free’ the bird on each page by opening the cage, and this is very cleverly done by including a flap which ‘releases’ the bird when opened. This will appeal to a younger audience and helps make this tome just a little bit different from the rest. Each two-page spread gives a different scene in the castle, and there is also the clever addition within each section of a prompt to find ten specific items – for example mice in the castle cellar or horns in the castle hall. This helps to further capture the interest of the children but also deftly weaves some number work into what is otherwise a very visual book. A different colour hue is also used in each new area of the castle to help emphasise the separate ‘chapters’ as the bird flies from page to page, and this would be an interesting exercise to replicate in an art class or as part of a discussion around the use of colour and imagery in story-telling with the older years. At the end of the tale the princess decides to let the bird remain free, and she is rewarded for this kindness with birdsong. This could be a useful stimulus for a discussion around the notion of freedom.
Laura Davies, Project Development Coordinator for Fair Foundations, Chwarae Teg
Online review 2015

Foxy Tales: The Great Jail Break, Caryl Hart, illustrated by Alex J Smith

Hodder Children’s Books ISBN 9781444909333 £4.99

Foxy DuBois is a glamorous female fox who, for several adventures, has been saddled with the far coarser Alphonso Alligator. In this story (Caryl Hart has taken over the writing from Alex J Smith, thus allowing him to concentrate on the illustrations – he is the official World Book Day illustrator) Foxy and Alphonso end up in jail for purloining some stolen cash. There is a plot, but the main attraction of this book is the best-friends-worst-friends relationship between Foxy and Alphonso, underscored by the fact that Alphonso is prepared to (and has threatened to) eat Foxy. I am uncomfortable with this premise of unpleasant but ultimately weak woman who trades on her femininity ‘You can’t blame me for keeping just a few little coins to buy some modestly-priced shoes’, being threatened with physical violence by a larger, stronger male, but I am not sure that a feminist deconstruction is helpful here as the book clearly pays homage to a New York gangster era and, as such, it works. Some children, especially fans of previous Foxy Tales stories, will enjoy the comic characters, the convoluted get-out-of-jail plot, the anti-establishment tone, the lively illustrations and the imaginative layout. Despite the large text this is not a book for struggling readers (‘Then I will convey you, without delay, to a secure establishment...’) so it will need careful placing in your class library.
Debra Holmes, English teacher, Sexey’s School, Bruton, Somerset
Online review 2015

The Great Cheese Robbery, written and illustrated by Tim Warnes

Little Tiger ISBN 9781848690523 £10.99

From the bold, simple, eye-catching front cover, through endpapers that make elephants look remarkably similar to slices of Swiss cheese, this book is a delight. It follows the well-worn theme of a child (an elephant in this case) needing to overcome fears, whilst his father is apparently scared of nothing. In his attempts to make himself feel a little better, Patrick elephant tries all kinds of ways to scare his dad, none of which work. Until one day a tiny mouse appears. Then the tables are turned. Daddy elephant is stereotypically terrified of mice, whilst his son has no problem at all. But Cornelius J. Parker is no ordinary mouse, and for me he is the star of the story. He claims to be from the Cheese Inspection Council and sets about inspecting the elephants’ supply. ‘I’m afraid your cheese is Very Dangerous!’ he tells them and drafts in his fellow ‘inspectors’ to confiscate it. Patrick is terribly helpful while his father shivers on the sofa, especially when even more mice arrive and begin to empty the house of its entire contents. When they start to cart away the very sofa that Patrick’s Daddy is still cowering on, the young elephant stops them in their tracks, finally finding his bravery. Then Mummy Elephant arrives, supports her son and is proved to be the bravest of them all. These are funny, well-defined characters in an enjoyable story full of surprises. Key stage 1 children will enjoy hearing it again and again.
Pam Dowson, retired primary teacher and PGCE tutor
Online review 2015

The Greedy Rainbow, Susan Chandler, illustrated by Sanja Rescek

QED Publishing ISBN 9781781716618 £4.99

Rainbows are such beautiful, surprising, ephemeral things, that to discover one quite as malevolent as the greedy rainbow of the title is pretty unnerving! Monkey takes the small rainbow he finds in his tree to show to his friends, but travelling from the forest canopy to its floor, the greedy rainbow grows by stealing all the colours from the animals and plants it passes along the way. At this point I was beginning to feel annoyed that something so evocative as a rainbow should be painted as the villain of the piece, but of course most stories have happy endings and I need not have been concerned. When he sees how unhappy everyone is living in the grey world he has created, he realises what he has done and gives the colours back. Phew! Thank goodness for that! However, the twist in the tale is that the colours don’t go back to the right places, so monkey is now purple, snake is violet and toucan’s beak is yellowy green. We are left to work out for ourselves how they might get things back to normal – if indeed they do! The key theme of the book is sharing, epitomised by monkey, versus selfishness and greed as displayed by the rainbow, who also shows us that people can change for the better if they see the effects of their actions on others. This book offers lots to talk about and would be a good prompt for philosophy in the key stage 1 classroom.
Pam Dowson, retired primary teacher and PGCE tutor
Online review 2015

How to Make a Human Out of Soup, Tracey Turner, illustrated by Sally Kindberg

Little, Brown Books for Young Readers ISBN 9780349124131 £6.99

This paperback gives a humorous but informative look at evolution, from primordial soup to humans as they are today. It uses a diverse range of styles including cartoons, fun illustrations, quizzes, upside-down sections and varying fonts to give variety, maintain interest and make a complex subject both fun and understandable. There are also some experiments to try at home and school including a simple but genius way to extract and see your own DNA. I was gobsmacked by this and vow to utilise it as a future teaching resource. The book could be seen as controversial in creationist eyes as it eludes to their belief system in a light-hearted manner but manages to do so (in my opinion) without undue offence. I found the book very easy to read and would suggest it would be best utilised as a learning and reading resource between year 4 to year 8 as the language and terms used can be challenging but at each level there is much good information to absorb. I also feel that the style of presentation and convenient bite-sized pieces might suit a child prone to distraction or lacking a fondness of reading and also someone who is suited to kinesthetic styles of learning as the book often needs to be inverted to read the content. Overall I would highly recommend this book and certainly learnt from it myself. It's a lovely combination of well-written information and wonderful complementary illustrations.
Rob Bilney, KS2 teacher, Llancarfan Primary School
Online review 2015

The Jolley-Rogers and the Cave of Doom, Jonny Duddle

Templar ISBN 978184877241 £5.99

From the Macbeth witches’ style opening, through the swashbuckling plot filled with humour to the engaging characters, this is a really enjoyable tale. It cries out to be read aloud to 5 to 7 year-olds, because there is such scope for using different voices in the marvellous dialogue. The illustrations must be shared, however, since they are brilliantly drawn, wonderfully creative and utterly integral to the text. The Jolley-Rogers family are suddenly minded to spend a day at the beach, but as one by one they disappear into a cave after little Nugget and do not reappear; Jim Lad realises something is amiss. Fortunately he has the foresight to enlist the help of his landlubber friend, Matilda, before he, too, enters the cave. Matilda finds the pirate family held in an enchantment before a huge hoard of treasure, victims of the three sea-witches. There follows an hilarious unravelling of the plot, with unexpected twists in the reasons for the witches' spells. Matilda is bright and plucky and more than a match for them, but there are some hairy moments...

It's always good to have a strong female protagonist amongst the characters and this book, and undoubtedly its predecessor, will be a real hit with both boys and girls. It could inspire some adventure writing and even rhyming witches' spells, leading beautifully into work on Macbeth.
Sue Barrett, former primary deputy head and senior lecturer in Primary Education, Canterbury Christ Church University Online review 2015

Jules and Nina Dine Out, Anita Pouroulis, illustrated by Agata Krawczyk

Digital Leaf ISBN 9781909428348 £6.99

Jules has two dogs, but it is only Nina who can be trusted to accompany the family to a restaurant and sit quietly under the table waiting for the odd titbit. While Jules' parents just about tolerate this, the restaurant manager has other ideas and so Nina is banned and subjected to the further ignominy of being tied to a lamp-post outside. Jules tries to manage her pet's disappointment by describing what she is eating in the most imaginatively disgusting ways - and very loudly! You can imagine the horror of this obviously highly intelligent dog with a vast vocabulary when she later witnesses the other dog at home, George, tucking into the contents of the doggy bag with great gusto!

This is a delightful picture book in which pictures and text are fully integrated. The illustrations depict characters with wonderfully expressive faces and hairstyles, all dressed in a range of seventies inspired prints and patterns against a backdrop of widely differing wallpapers. The effect is to suggest a kaleidoscope of textures and detail for readers to enjoy and there are always the twenty-five small snails to count… This is a lovely text for shared reading with Reception and Year 1 and a wonderful introduction to alliteration with 'larruping lizards', 'gasping grasshoppers' and 'elephantine eyeballs'. Much fun could be had encouraging children to come up with their own creatively horrible food descriptions.
Sue Barrett, former primary deputy head and senior lecturer in Primary Education, Canterbury Christ Church University Online review 2015

The Lion Inside, Rachel Bright, illustrated by Jim Field

Orchard Books ISBN 9781408331590 £11.99

From the captivating front cover on which a tiny, uncertain looking mouse sits atop a green-eyed somewhat sinister lion's head, this is a heart-warming rhyming tale which will delight young readers. Based loosely on one of Aesop's fables, it describes how ‘mouse-life can be tough’ when you are at the bottom of the food chain on the African plain. Lion, as top predator, ensures everyone appreciates his importance by being very ‘shouty’ and showing off his strength, while mouse is ignored or nearly trodden on by all the other animals. Mouse is made of sterner stuff than we might imagine, however, for when he realises that ‘forever was such a long time to feel small’, he decides to set aside his meekness and learn to roar by taking lessons from the lion himself! Will this prove to be a stroke of genius or suicide?

Jim Field's brilliant pencil illustrations with their fabulously varied perspectives involve the reader completely and the characterisation of these two lovable characters is very winning. The enjoyable rhyming text has a Giles Andreae feel to it, and the insightful moral is an important one for children to hear. We each need to find our voice in the world and mouse is an inspiration! Children from Reception to Y2/3 will enjoy this from shared reading, to paired performances, to happy personal rereadings. They will also enjoy making up their own adjectives to rival 'tinyful', 'toothsome' and 'shouty'. This is a delightful addition to any class and school library.
Sue Barrett, former primary deputy head and senior lecturer in Primary Education at CCCU
Online review 2015

The Lost Fairy, Marian Broderick, illustrated by Aileen Caffrey

O'Brien ISBN 9781847177391 £5.99

Pride definitely comes before a fall in this tale of Flora, the Christmas tree fairy. Her role is to look beautiful at the top of the tree and, she believes wrongly, to sing out the present list to Santa at midnight on Christmas Eve, to ensure the family get what they wish for. She has been in the family for over ninety years and has grown vain and foolish, thinking herself way above toy snowmen and reindeer and definitely more important than the star (rumoured, shockingly, to be at the top of trees in other homes!). To ensure that never happens in her house, she shakes the branches whenever she sees him climbing closer! On Christmas Eve a sudden breeze blows and Flora falls from the tree. As each member of the family starts and then fails to help her, Flora endures ever greater indignities until finally, Lily, young enough to be able to hear Flora speak, restores both her appearance and her position on the tree. It is a more chastened, humble creature who now presides over the decorations. Humorously illustrated with wonderfully entertaining line drawings, newly independent readers from Y2 will enjoy spotting the star in the distance making a bid for the top of the tree as Flora endures her various torments.
Sue Barrett, former primary deputy head and senior lecturer in Primary Education at CCCU
Online review 2015

A Monster’s Moved in! Timothy Knapman, illustrated by Loretta Schauer

Little Tiger ISBN 9781848690424 £10.99

The title gives it away, of course. As soon as Barney announces that he’s going to make a den to relieve the boredom of a rainy day and his parents warn him that a monster might move in, we know that’s exactly what’s going to happen. But Burple’s quite a friendly little monster and the two have fun and adventures together. Back at the monster family home the next day, tables are turned when, despite his parents’ warning that…a boy might move in, Burple builds his own den and is delighted when Barney returns his visit. Bright, bold illustrations accompany the text of this fun tale where children are bigger risk-takers than their parents, and lack their preconceptions - an important message about judging people by their looks or reputation. The repeated phrase ‘Big Mistake!’ invites joining in, and there’s a nice little message about reading being a cool thing to do, when Burple says ‘Wow! Let’s read another!’ after sharing a book with his new friend. One to enjoy sharing with a KS1 class.
Pam Dowson, retired primary teacher and PGCE tutor
Online review 2015

My Little Book of Ocean Life, Camilla de la Bédoyère

QED Publishing ISBN 9781784930127 £7.99

Stunning colour photographs feature throughout this book. My class particularly liked the close-up of an octopus’ suckers grabbing a fish and a saltwater crocodile using its tail to leap up into the air. Fascinating facts are included and the information is pitched at exactly the right level for children to understand, such as ‘A blue whale’s tongue is the size of an elephant’ and ‘Praying mantis shrimps attack using their powerful front legs, which are strong enough to break glass!’ The book deals with a wide variety of ocean life including invertebrates such as jellyfish, octopus and crab, fish such as ray and shark, reptiles like marine iguana and turtle, birds like penguin and albatross and mammals like the walrus and Blue whale. There is a helpful glossary and index. Highly recommended for key stage 1 children and reluctant readers, and adults will learn from it too.
Brenda Marshall, Head of English, Port Regis, Motcombe Park, Shaftesbury                                                                                                       Online review 2015

Nature's Day, Kay Maguire, illustrated by Danielle Kroll

Wide Eyed Editions ISBN: 9781847806086 £14.99

From the moment you set eyes on the beautifully designed, textured cover of this book, you know you are in for a treat. Written by a trained gardener, it explores nature in places accessible to us all, from the garden, the local street, through to the pond, woods and farm. Nine places in all are revisited through each of the seasons, with changes to their appearance and wildlife explained in some detail through a wonderful, sensuous text. Between illustrations on the busy pages, which call to be explored, are sections in cursive script providing further information or suggestions for things to see, touch, smell and do. This is a lovely book to share and discuss throughout KS1 and would complement activities done in Forest School perfectly. It's informative, full of an enthusiastic appreciation of nature and wonderfully descriptive. For this reader's personal taste, however, the illustrative style did not appeal. It lacked the detail, it was felt, for children to be able to recognise a kestrel or a bat for themselves, but perhaps there are other texts to fulfil that for them....
Sue Barrett, former primary deputy head and senior lecturer in Primary Education, Canterbury Christ Church University
Online review 2015

Never Tickle a Tiger, Pamela Butchart, illustrated by Marc Boutavant

Bloomsbury ISBN 9781408839041 £6.99

We have all taught an Izzy (or indeed many such pupils) who cannot sit still. She was 'forever shuffling and jiggling, squirming and twitching, wriggling and fiddling' (thus providing the perfect opportunity to explore movement verbs!). She is like it at home, at parties and at school, so when they all go on a school trip to the zoo, Izzy is given a long list of things to stop doing by her long-suffering teacher. Utterly fed up, she slips away unnoticed at lunchtime to the tiger enclosure and tickles it, blissfully unaware of the mayhem about to be unleashed. A glorious double fold-out page depicts the wonderfully imaginative domino effect this has. The ensuing pandemonium has a remarkable, but albeit brief, influence on the feisty small heroine...

The winsomely colourful illustrations give real character to each animal and child in the story and there are plenty of small details for readers to find and enjoy. The text is full of alliteration to savour and recreate: 'knotting her knitting' and 'poking a peacock' is only slightly eclipsed by 'walloped a walrus' and 'ponged a panda'! Classes in KS1 would have much fun in creating their own, perhaps leading to tongue twisters, and the whole story could be learnt and performed, preferably with actions! This author, who wrote Yikes, Stinkysaurus! is destined to become a firm favourite in early years’ classrooms.
Sue Barrett, former primary deputy head and senior lecturer in Primary Education, Canterbury Christ Church University
Online review 2015

The Ride-by-Nights, Walter de la Mare, illustrated Carolina Rabei

 Faber and Faber  ISBN 9780571307197  £6.99

 This is a multi-layered text based on the poem by Walter de la Mare.  The Ride-by-Nights, or witches, are a friendly bunch not averse to playing tricks on each other as they swoop through the night sky.  It happens to be Halloween, so the parallel story shows a family setting off to trick-or-treat on friends and neighbours.  Only the farm animals notice the witches 'neath Charlie's Wain - the humans gathering below are having their own very enjoyable evening.  Carolina Rabei's illustrations perfectly capture the awe and wonder of being out late on a dark night and the magic and fun of Halloween.  This is a book to share with very young children to encourage discussion of their own experiences, as well as contributing to their developing understanding of text as a conveyer of multiple narratives.

Elizabeth Broad, Head of Primary ITT, University of Roehampton

 Space Dog, Mini Grey

Random House ISBN 9780857550903 £11.99

Opening a new picture book by Mini Grey is one of life’s pleasures and this one does not disappoint. Right from the first endpaper with its complex map of Cake Space, full of imaginative destinations and wonderful word-play, ‘the cistern system’ and ‘outer spooniverse’, the reader is swept into the author’s quirkiness. We soon learn that Space Dogs, Astrocats and Moustronauts are sworn enemies, but no-one can quite remember why. It is the year 3034 and Space Dog is busy sorting out problems in the Dairy Quadrant. Fulfilling though this is, it is a rather lonely vigil he keeps in his spacecraft playing Dogopoly. All that changes, however, when he receives a distress call from Astrocat and later, Moustronaut. No-one is quite prepared, though, for an encounter with the Queen of the Cheese Ants! Will the three be able to bury their differences?

Grey is brilliant at integrating text and pictures in her narratives. Every centimetre of each page must be scrutinised in order to appreciate the detail, the jokes and the imagination. Variations in picture size, perspective and page division all help to drive the narrative and close reading is vital. The final endpaper is an extract from the Spaceforce Official Training Handbook, filled with a range of characters, ideal for further adventures both from the author, but also child authors from Years 2-6. Sketching a new character first (to be applauded by the new children’s laureate Chris Riddell!) and then using it for some improvisation is an ideal way for children to start developing a voice for that creation – a key feature of Grey’s work. A book to be shared, but only if everyone can see!
Sue Barrett, former primary deputy head and senior lecturer in Primary Education, Canterbury Christ Church University
Online review 2015

Space Walkies, Robert Dunn

QED Publishing ISBN 9781784930431 £10.99

Space and dogs seem like a match made in heaven; two unrelated phenomenon that many of our nation’s little ones can’t get enough of. With its eye-catching, front cover, complete with shiny metallic elements, Space Walkies is likely to be eagerly snatched off of bookshelves up and down the country. Often covered in the EYFS and early key stage 1, space is a popular topic. With its colourful, sketchy illustrations, Space Walkies would make a fantastic class or bedtime story. It’s large, easy to read font may be enticing for young readers as they begin to independently sound out their words. An ‘it was all a dream’ ending lends itself beautifully to an early key stage 1 writing session. Children could write about other imaginative dreams that the dog Bailey, featured in this book, has experienced and illustrate them in a similar sketchy style. Alternatively, parents and teachers could use the handy next steps page at the back of the book to question understanding and deepen knowledge.
Lauren M. Freedman, key stage 2 teacher, Shirley Community Primary School, Cambridge.
Online review 2015

Spot the Shark in the Ocean, Stella Maidment, illustrated by Joelle Dreidemy

QED Publishing ISBN 9781781715703 £8.99

This colourful extravaganza of ocean life follows a winning formula: providing children with an amusing or appealing character to spot on each page. In this case it is a rather lovable, goofy young shark and as children search for him, they are scanning double page spreads which illustrate different areas of ocean life. There is a somewhat unexpected page including land creatures at the North Pole which inexplicably mixes polar bears with penguins, but this fact is cleared up in the 'Did You Know' section at the end of the book. Amidst all the spotting and counting, children are also given a wide range of facts about ocean life. Who knew such things as the 'dumbo octopus' or 'yeti crab' exist?

This is at least the third book by Stella Maidment in this popular series and it will appeal to Reception and KS1 children in both shared reading or individual exploration. The colourful cartoon-style illustrations are fun and appealing, but will also support close observation. The 'More Ocean Fun' section at the end of the book includes suggestions for further games, activities and art ideas and the book lends itself to children's research into creatures of their choice, or to speaking activities such as an imaginative exploration of a day in the life of a turtle hatchling or a seahorse.
Sue Barrett, former primary deputy head and senior lecturer in Primary Education, Canterbury Christ Church University
Online review 2015

The Story Machine, Tom McLaughlin

Bloomsbury ISBN 9781408839348 £6.99

This beautiful story has one main aim: to inspire children to write. A picture book ideal for KS1, it tells the tale of a boy who discovers a typewriter and, unsure what it is, decides that it must be a story machine. It is when the machine goes wrong that he has an important revelation: ‘It wasn’t the machine that was making the stories… it was him and he was really rather good at it!’ The book thus celebrates the special bond between a child and the stories they create, and importantly it does not exclude technology from that bond. For the teacher it is a reminder that technology can prove to be the crutch which first supports children as they begin to write, and that pictures, and magical ‘story boxes,’ can provide the utmost fascination and inspiration for children, especially young children. This is a simple yet powerful story celebrating words, pictures, and the power of every child’s imagination.
Rachel Cordon
Online review 2015

T-Veg: The story of a carrot-crunching dinosaur, Smriti Prasadam-Halls, illustrated by Katherina Manolessou

Frances Lincoln Children’s Books ISBN 9781847806833 £11.99

This cornucopia of colour explores the themes of being different and breaking society’s expectations, whilst encouraging children to eat fruit and vegetables! It tells the story of a vegetarian T-Rex who, mocked by his peers, sets out alone to befriend some herbivores, who run from him in fear. Heading back home, he rescues his fellow T-Rexes from a falling boulder, thus proving that his vegetation diet has by no means weakened him. A story perfect for KS1, it bounces along with its rhyming text and jolly, bright illustrations which fill every page. This book celebrates the joy, colour and deliciousness of fruit and vegetables, and the happiness which comes from accepting yourself, and being accepted for who you are. It could easily be incorporated into PSHE work, following either of the text’s main themes: healthy eating or valuing differences.
Rachel Cordon
Online review 2015

What a Naughty Bird! Sean Taylor and Dan Widdowson

Templar Publishing ISBN 9781783703487 £6.99

This is a highly entertaining ‘rhyming romp’ from award-winning author Sean Taylor. The story will delight a younger primary audience – particularly KS1 or Foundation Phase children. It follows the naughty escapades of a bird that flies around the world pooing on other animals, until he goes a step too far and is given a dose of his own medicine! The wonderfully vibrant and bold illustrations will have children howling with laughter as each picture perfectly captures the humour and mischievous nature depicted in the text. It is a great book for less confident readers as the text is clear and logical and with the support of the pictures would be suitable for a wide range of abilities. There are plenty of animals included in the story which adds another dimension for teachers looking at habitats and the behaviours of various animals with the early years. It could also be used as stimulus for circle-time or philosophy sessions about the consequences of actions as well as treating others as you wish to be treated – all with humour and colour!
Laura Davies, Project Development Coordinator for Fair Foundations, Chwarae Teg
Online review 2015

The Worst Wizard, John Mclay, illustrated by Martin Brown

Orion ISBN 9781444012903 £4.99
Orion’s Early Readers are ‘stepping stones from picture books to reading books’. John Mclay’s The Worst Wizard is a welcome addition to the Blue Reader series. Harry’s family are knights. Harry is a knight-in-waiting, but he is small. His family have annoying traits. Every time his sister passes him she says, ‘Are you OK down there?’, and his mother always ruffles his hair. Harry decides to take action and he goes to visit the Wizard Hocus Pocus, to see if he can be made taller. There is clever interplay between the text and illustrations, by Horrible Histories’ illustrator Martin Brown. Children loved the range of facial expressions of Oats the Horse, and their favourite picture is of Oats appearing in a bolt of blue magic. Children identified with being the small and not being treated as they would like by members of the family. We discussed how the acquisition of a new helmet makes Harry taller, but not quite in the way that he expected. Children liked the way Harry helped Hocus Pocus too by finding his glasses. There was much speculation about what Harry would need next, in terms of equipment and character before he becomes a fully fledged knight. The book is great fun and is highly recommended for key stage 1 pupils to share and read together with adults.
Brenda Marshall, Head of English, Port Regis, Motcombe Park, Shaftesbury
Online review 2015

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