Ages 5-7 [Key Stage 1] 2014

 10 Minute Crafts For Spring, Annalees Lim

Wayland ISBN 9780750284035 £7.99

A highly appealing book to introduce children to the season of Spring. Using natural materials that can be collected outside together with conventional materials, the crafts are explained in easy to follow step-by-step instructions. A contents page lists the projects: fluffy sheep; the life of a seed; leaf print flowers; daffodil paperweight; bark rubbing; bouncing bunnies; twig hanging; potted flowers; and soil pictures. A glossary and index is also included. The book is brimming with colour and the photographs bring the making process to life. Each project begins by setting the wider scene and there is a ‘you will need’ section. Each step of the instructions includes a picture, framed in twigs with the instructions below, written in clear and accessible language. This book would support activities about Spring time and new life with children aged 5 – 8.
Jo Kilpatrick, teacher, Rumney Primary School, Cardiff
Online review 2014

Ahmed and the Feather Girl, written and illustrated by Jane Ray

Frances Lincoln Children's Books ISBN 9781847803535 £6.99

Ahmed is a young boy, yearning to be free from the daily torment of Madame Saleem and the endless chores of the travelling circus. Each night, he gazes at the stars, where he finds comfort in the hope that one day, things might be different. Ahmed gets his wish… a beautiful, golden egg. Keen to protect his egg, Ahmed returns to the circus, where his precious finding is quickly snatched away by the tormenting Madam Saleem. One day, Ahmed hears a hatching sound. Before his very eyes, his golden egg transforms into a young, beautiful girl: Aurelia. Money hungry and controlling, Madam Saleem seizes the opportunity and turns the young girl into a spectacle; ‘The Girl Hatched from a Golden Egg’ – reaping the monetary rewards for herself. As the girl grows older, Ahmed senses her immense discomfort and sadness at being caged. She too, like Ahmed, longed to be free; able to spread their wings. With courage, Ahmed comes to Aurelia’s rescue, swiping the key from Madam Saleem whilst she is sleeping and later freeing Aurelia from her cage. He watches with awe as she sores into the glimmering night sky, and hopes that one day, he will see her eyes again. Each night, Ahmed dreams of Aurelia and receives a feather in his hand. Just as he is losing faith, Aurelia returns. Using the feathers he has been given nightly, Ahmed and Aurelia glide magically up and away together, to the place beyond the stars.

Ahmed and the Feather Girl is a beautiful tale of friendship, loyalty and freedom. Throughout this story, coupled themes evolve such as cruelty and justice; child slavery and hope; fear and kindness; captivity and freedom, providing excellent discussion points for children and adults, as well as allowing opportunities for further research and links to current issues in our world today. Vibrant, colourful and captivating illustrations engage the eye thoroughly and open the reader’s imagination and mind. The images support the text beautifully, providing a colourful and magical backdrop, and at times, an other-worldly fairy tale feel. This story will engage young readers and is suitable for children of primary school age. The beautiful images provide excellent opportunities for further artwork and design projects with children of many ages. With children in upper primary age groups, the tale provides a simple, yet thought provoking narrative, that could open up pathways into deeper discussion around the crucial themes mentioned above. This book has a magical feel from beginning to end, leaving the reader dreaming of the wonder of the ‘place beyond the stars.
Heather Babbs, Year 6 teacher, St. Joseph & St. Bede Catholic Primary School, Bury
Online review 2015

Amelia and Nanette – Sparkly Shoes and Picnic Parties, written and illustrated by Sophie Tilley

Bloomsbury ISBN 978-1408836637 £6.99

Unashamedly for girly girls, this is the first in a new series of best-friend stories about Amelie and Nanette. They love shoes and clothes and jewellery and having fun together. (Does that remind you of any females of any age that you know?) Much as we may try to avoid gender stereotyping, there’s no getting away from it – many little girls are indeed intrinsically girly and will love reading about the gentle adventures of this pair of best friends and their dog Pilou. The pastel shaded illustrations, flowery end papers and traditional font add a nostalgic air. Age-range: 5-7
Pam Dowson, retired primary teacher and PGCE tutor
Online review 2014

Animals Are Amazing: Tigers, Valerie Bodden

Franklin Watts ISBN 9781445129563 £8.99

The fabulous photographs attracted me to this book. The pictures are large and the text is straightforward and clear. Along the bottom of each page is either a glossary or an interesting fact. The book covers tiger facts, big cats, where tigers live, tiger food, new tigers, hunting for food, tiger sounds and tigers and people. The Tiger Story from Asia at the end introduces the idea of tigers in folklore and mythology. There is a helpful index and useful bibliography and website recommendations. This book is a winner for Key Stage 1 pupils who will learn interesting information from it and gaze in awe and wonder at the magnificent photographs of this iconic creature.
Brenda Marshall, Head of English, Port Regis, Motcombe Park, Shaftesbury
Online review 2014

The Big Book Of Old Tom, written and illustrated by Leigh Hobbs

Allen and Unwin ISBN 9781743318447 £8.99

Leigh Hobbs is a highly popular author and illustrator in Australia and New Zealand. This book collects five of his Old Tom stories in one substantial paperback version. We learn how Old Tom finds his home with Angela Throgmorton, what happens when he goes to the beach, when he travels to Mars (was it really Mars?) and when he meets the Queen. The final story seems to be a bit of a rehash of the first so I imagine that’s why it’s placed at the end of the book. I like a number of aspects of this collection: the text is easy (with very few unusual or difficult-to-decipher words); the plots are entertaining and well-paced and the ratio of text to illustration means that the reader can get through a lot of pages in one sitting and feel a sense of accomplishment. I am not particularly keen on the sketchy pen and ink illustrations. The publisher describes them as ‘manic and hilarious’ and they give the book a rather roguish, adult feel that is likely to appeal to the struggling reader who does not want to feel patronised by his/her easy-reading matter. I feel that this book could sit very happily on the shelf of any classroom from Year 3 to Year 7.
Debra Holmes, English teacher, Sexey’s School, Bruton, Somerset
Online review 2015

The Big Splash, A.H. Benjamin, illustrated by Jon Lycett-Smith

Digital Leaf ISBN 9781909428317 £6.99

This is an exciting story about lots of different woodland and river characters who are going about their daily activities in their natural surroundings when they are disturbed by frightening sounds. As each character makes a run for safety they meet and face the creator of the noise together at a dead end. What happens next is a nice surprise for all involved which involves a bit of a splash but, it’s ok the book comes with a pair of goggles! The moral of the story is that even though you think something might be frightening at first, if you give it a chance it might turn out to be really fun. This book provides a setting within which to teach children about the natural habitats of a range of animals including a rabbit, beaver, skunk and racoon. It could be used as stimulus for teaching about colourful language, alliteration, similes, powerful verbs, adverbs and adjectives as there are many wonderful examples of each throughout the book.
It is beautifully illustrated throughout and the drawings depict a lovely child-friendly view of the habitats of the animals.
This book would be very enjoyable for children of all ages as the storyline is exciting and enjoyable. It could be read to younger children and used as a teaching tool for older children.
Nicola Dougan, Primary School Teacher, Belfast
Online review 2014

Bill’s Silly Hat, Susan Gates and Anni Axworthy

Franklin Watts ISBN 9781445116174 £4.99

Bill does not like the stripy hat that his Gran has knitted for him; he thinks it makes him look like a bee. He doesn’t want to hurt Gran’s feelings though so he wears the hat to the local park but when the other children laugh, Bill can stand it no more. He takes off the hat only to catch a glimpse of Gran! Pulling the hat back on, he unfortunately covers his eyes leading him into all sorts of difficulty. Eventually Bill has the idea of teaching his little sister a Buzzy Bee song and dance that makes it completely fitting for her to wear the bee hat! A short and colourful book, with additional challenge puzzles at the back, suitable for newly independent readers aged 5-7.
Jo Kilpatrick, teacher, Rumney Primary School, Cardiff
Online review 2014

Bob and Rob, Sue Pickford

Frances Lincoln ISN 9781847803436 £11.99

Bob and Rob is an amusing and lively book with plenty of humour and slapstick comedy. The story follows Bob a kind and well-meaning dog who helps old ladies cross the road and bakes cakes, but has the bad luck to belong to a burglar called Rob. Bob dreams of being an ordinary dog but he remains faithful to Rob, nightly donning his burglar mask to help carry out his thieving. Unfortunately Rob is not a very successful burglar and he makes many mistakes while on the job. One night they climb through an open window and steal lots of presents only to find they are all children’s toys, not at all what Rob was hoping for! Bob being a good natured dog at heart can’t bear the thought of unhappy children missing out on their presents and sets forth to make the long journey to return them. He falls asleep at the house and awakes to find three small children excitedly happy to discover a dog in their home. Bob eventually finds his new family are not anything like Rob and he cheerfully stays with them. The illustrations are wonderfully colourful with lots of expression. I particularly liked the warm hearted impression made by this story, we are encouraged to feel genuinely sorry for poor Bob the dog who wants to be virtuous and really root for him to come good at the end. A lovely and entertaining picture book for children aged 4 to 7.
Katherine Thomas
Online review 2014

Brian And The Vikings, Chris Judge and Mark Wickham

O’Brien Press ISBN 9781847176875 £6.99

Brian and his brothers loved nothing more than fishing in the river, hunting in the woods and playing warriors but one day they spot a big, scary, Viking ship coming up the river. Brian may be the smallest boy in the village but he is also the smartest and he knows that there is trouble ahead. Organising each of his brothers with a job, Brian is determined to save the villagers from the perils of the Vikings. The invaders manage to foil a series of plans to lead them away from the village until Brian comes up with his best invention ever and saves the village. This is a story that will appeal to younger children with a sense of adventure, culminating in the triumph of the brains over brawn. This book has wonderful illustrations, particularly the expressions of the invader Vikings! Suitable for sharing with 4 – 6 year olds.
Jonathan Rooke, Senior Lecturer, University of Winchester
Online review 2015

The Cat, the Dog, Little Red, the exploding eggs, the Wolf and Grandma’s wardrobe, Diane and Christyan Fox

Words & Pictures ISBN 9781910277003 £11.99

It is tempting to think that too many writers have tried to find new, imaginative and even subversive ways to retell traditional tales, particularly Little Red Riding Hood, and have flooded the market. This book counters that argument perfectly! Dog and Cat are an hilarious duo, destined to become firm favourites. Cat sets out to read the traditional Red Riding Hood story to Dog who wilfully interjects with suggestions, reinterpretations and enough questions to try the patience of a saint. t’s no wonder Cat erupts, but who will get the last word? Reminiscent of Lane Smith’s work, the dialogue leaps off the page so that the reader can hear the asides, the tone, the frustration and even the fear. Illustration, narrative, dialogue, print and positioning on the page are masterfully handled, so that we are completely immersed in the exchanges between this oddly-matched pair. Readers of all ages are going to enjoy this book and it is an absolute gift to read aloud. The successful and prolific husband and wife team who produced the popular Piggy Wiggy and Snip and Snap series for younger readers have hit upon a new winning formula. This reviewer was hooked from where Cat had to explain what the endpaper they were walking across was for and I cannot wait for the next one!
Sue Barrett, former primary deputy head and senior lecturer in Primary Education at Canterbury Christ Church University
Online review 2015

Chicken Mission: Danger in the Deep Dark Woods, Jennifer Gray

Faber and Faber ISBN 9780571298273 £5.99

Trouble is brewing for the chicken community of Dudley Manor: the members of the dastardly ‘Most Wanted Club’ are intent on holding the biggest chicken feast in the history of all chicken feasts. Is there anyone who will be able to save these poor hapless chicken souls? Professor Rooster believes that his newly formed Elite Chicken Squad possess the desired credentials for this important mission: courage, intelligence and perseverance. Three young chickens, Ruth, Amy and Boo, had been plucked from the comforts of their family roosts and transported to the International School of Kung Fu for Poultry which perches high in the mountains of Tibet. Here they were subjected to a gruelling and dangerous training regime under the watchful glare of the wise Shigong-Egg, the master of Martial Arts. Their training complete, these plucky young chicks are sent to save the chickens of Dudley Manor. This is not an easy first mission for the newly formed Elite Squad: The Most Wanted Club has the most wily, ferocious and wickedly determined members. Drawing on their innate qualities and working a s a formidable team, Ruth, Amy and Boo ensure that, despite a few very hairy moments, their fellow chickens do not fall foul of the machinations of the Most Wanted Club. This is a delightful book which focuses on the importance of friendship and team work and would be perfect for encouraging class, or guided reading group, discussions.
Tracey Parvin, Senior Lecturer, Primary Education, Canterbury Christ Church University
Online review 2015

Counting Chickens, Polly Alakija

Frances Lincoln ISBN 9781847804372 £11.99

A delightful African counting tale about Tobi, the proud owner of the finest hen in the village and his friends. Each friend has their own animal and each in turn celebrated the new births in the village: one calf on Monday; two lambs on Tuesday; three kids on Wednesday; four kittens on Thursday; five puppies on Friday; and six piglets on Saturday. Tobi’s hen laid an egg each day while Tobi waited patiently. A week later the calf mooed, the lambs ran and skipped and the baby goats climbed and still Tobi waited. Two weeks later the kittens chased their tales, the puppies chased the kittens and the piglets rolled in the dust and still Tobi sat with his hen and waited. At last a brood of seven beautiful chicks hatched, who grew into hens almost as perfect as their mother hen. They all had chicks of their own and Tobi came to be the proud owner of so many chickens he couldn’t count them all and needs some help. A lesson in patience, this story book also supports the numeracy curriculum. Days of the week, the passage of time, counting to fifty and ordinal numbers are all integral to the story but could be used as a springboard for more focussed work on any of these areas. Supported by detailed, gentle illustrations there is much to talk about. Suitable for children aged 4 – 6.
Jo Kilpatrick, teacher, Rumney Primary School, Cardiff
Online review 2014

Creatures of the Night, Camilla de la Bédoyère

QED Publishing ISBN 9781781715369 £7.99

The black cover with the orange wide-eyes of the Aye-aye and its strangely witch-like fingers curling over the spooky style title will have children reaching for it with both hands. Inside, still against the dramatic black of night for the most part, they will find well-designed double page spreads on a huge range of nocturnal creatures from Pangolins to Fennec Foxes, along with a host of insects and beetles and the stunning Spanish Moon Moth. Wonderful colour photographs provide a close encounter for young readers with animals rarely seen and the text and labelling provide the facts and information. With its contents, glossary, index and all the features of a non-chronological report (in 'old money'!), this is the perfect non-fiction text to have in class and school libraries for children from Y2 upwards. I loved it and am now trying to drop the term 'mustelid' into conversation whenever I can!
Sue Barrett, former primary deputy head and senior lecturer in Primary Education, Canterbury Christ Church University
Online review 2015

Dinosaur poo! Diane and Christyan Fox

Words & Pictures ISBN 9781910277027 £12.99

A brightly coloured hardback edition, this book combines the two subjects of the title perfectly and there are very many small children for whom this would be totally irresistible. Pterodactyl and Velociraptor are on a mission to find the biggest poo in the world of dinosaurs. What follows is an amusing tale in verse of an ever-increasing number of dinosaurs, discovering ever-larger examples of poo hidden behind bigger and bigger flaps. In this excrement covered world, samples are to be found behind rocks and shrubs, down holes, in caves, in the river and even up a tree! Those at potty-training level or who have embraced the toilet humour phase, will undoubtedly wriggle with glee at the illustrations and the somewhat unexpected ending. Many will enjoy the dinosaur names on the endpapers and the good quality paper should go some way towards protecting the flaps from over-excited young readers. Undoubtedly the easy font, bright colours and simple bold illustrations will entice many and the authors are undoubtedly skilled in this market. What lurks behind the flaps, however, is bold both in illustration and its indication of smell level, so the more sensitive or squeamish reader might prefer other picture books available which focus more on dinosaurs, rather than their bodily functions!
Sue Barrett, former primary deputy head and senior lecturer in Primary Education at Canterbury Christ Church University
Online review 2015

Dragon Loves Penguin, Debi Gliori

Bloomsbury ISBN 9781408839492 £10.99

I love this beautiful and touching picture book that celebrates difference in warm and engaging tale. Penguin Bib asks his mummy for his favourite bedtime dragon story. Through this story we learn that long ago dragons came to live in the land of ice and snow, waiting for the return of the spring sunshine and the egg-laying season. The eggs arrive with spots and stripes, bumps and frills, in a host of sizes. But one dragon, having no egg at all, leaves to be alone for a while. Flying through the night sky she catches sight of an abandoned egg in need of a mummy. It is a perfect fit and the start of a special and loving relationship. When the egg hatches the little baby doesn’t look like the other dragons and she doesn’t grow like them either but she does grow courage. The other dragons don’t realise that being different can be good until ‘Little One’ saves the day. A wonderful read, with charcoal line and watercolour illustrations adding to the atmospheric magic. This book would support many early learning personal and social education themes about being different and being brave. Suitable for sharing with children aged 4 – 6.
Jo Kilpatrick, teacher, Rumney Primary School, Cardiff
Online review 2014

Enormouse, Angie Morgan

Frances Lincoln Children’s Books ISBN 9781847805263 £6.99

Enormouse is a big mouse, and he doesn’t know why. His best friend is Tinymouse. Enormouse ‘s size enables him to help the mice, by carrying mice and heavy things. One day he and Tinymouse find a large book and identify Enormouse as a rat. The mice laugh. Enormouse is upset and leaves the Mouse House and goes to live in the Rats’ House. The rats are friendly but the rats are messy and Enormouse doesn’t fit in. Back in the Mouse House the mice regret laughing at Enormouse and set out to find him. They are reunited and Enormouse goes back to where he belongs. This is a charming story about identity, belonging, being different, not hurting people, not responding too quickly and being accepted. The illustrations are like collage cartoons and the mice wear different jumpers. The endpapers identify individual mice and children could invent mice of their own or make up stories about the different characters. It is highly recommended for sharing with key stage 1 pupils.
Brenda Marshall, Head of English, Port Regis, Motcombe Park, Shaftesbury
Online review 2015

The Flying Bedroom, Heather Dyer, illustrated by Chloe Douglass

Firefly ISBN 9781910080023 £5.99

If you can have such things as comfortable adventures, then this delightful series of stories describes them. Whenever Elinor goes to sleep, her bedroom flies, taking her to the theatre, a tropical island, a snowy landscape, the moon and other unlikely destinations. The very self-assured Elinor takes her unexpected and random journeys completely in her stride, dealing confidently with a diverse collection of characters from pirates to theatrical luvvies. Heather Dyer's engaging, direct style is perfect for young readers, balancing dialogue and description in just the right amounts. Each story is a separate journey, perfect for sharing at the end of the school day, or at bedtime, when children can close their eyes and imagine where their own bedroom might transport them when they fall asleep! Age Range 5 – 8.
Pam Dowson, retired primary teacher and PGCE tutor
Online review 2015

I Love Cats and Kittens, David Alderton

QED Publishing ISBN 9781781715444 £8.99

If you love cats and kittens, this is the book for you! Over 50 breeds are featured and each breed gets a full double page containing up to six beautiful photos. There is just a short paragraph of information about each breed but this book is more about the enjoyment of looking at photos of these wonderful animals than learning copious amounts of information. If you are looking for details about cat breeds then this book will disappoint but if you just love cats and love appreciating their beauty then this book fits the bill perfectly. A great book for all children who love cats.
Emma Webb, vet and a parent
Online review 2015

I’m the Happiest, Anna Shuttleworth

QED Publishing ISBN 9781781711378 £4.99

The animals compete to be the best. Giraffe says he is the tallest, Hedgehog the spikiest, Pig the prettiest, Frog the greenest and so on. There is much jealousy but Racoon stands apart as he dances to celebrate the other animals’ unique qualities. Eventually all the animals follow his example. The story is fun and the illustrations are charming. The book offers much to explore in PSE and there is a useful page of discussion points for parents and teachers. Recommended for children aged 4+
Brenda Marshall, Head of English, Port Regis, Motcombe Park, Shaftesbury
Online review 2014

Keep Running Gingerbread Man, Steve Smallman and Neil Price

QED publishing ISBN 9781781716502 £9.99

QED has produced yet another successful tale for its Fairytales Gone Wrong series which is sure to be popular in all infant classrooms. This traditional tale is very recognisable as the newly baked gingerbread man escapes from the old woman and old man with his memorable rhyming verse, ‘Run, run, as fast as you can, you can’t catch me, I’m the gingerbread man!’. Familiar characters such as the cow, the horse and the wily old fox appear, but the tale soon takes an unexpected turn. For a start, each time he says his rhyme, it is accompanied by the increasingly funny descriptions of him as the ‘smug little biscuit’ and ‘irritating little snack’, something we, as readers, never realised we felt about this character! Then as the ‘annoying little tea-time treat’ surprisingly escapes the fox’s jaws, it appears he is not the only one who has adopted a healthy life-style to become fit! The quirky, caricature-like illustrations are colourful and engaging, filling every page and giving often surprising perspectives. This is an ideal book for introducing the idea of keeping active to young children and the prompts for discussion at the end, which are a hallmark of this publishing house, are a useful starting point.
Sue Barrett, former primary deputy head and senior lecturer in Primary Education at Canterbury Christ Church University
Online review 2015

Love Horses and Ponies, Nicola Jane Swinney

QED Publishing ISBN 9781781715437 £8.99

A beautifully presented guide to over 50 breeds. The photography is stunning. Each breed has an information box with interesting facts within a double-page spread. Familiar breeds such as the Mustan, Shire horse and and Shetland pony, rub shoulders with the less well known such as the Tenessee Walking Horse, the Boer Pony and the Criollo. There is a clear glossary and visual representation of the differences between a pony, horse and draft horse. It is highly recommended and at only £8.99 it is good value for money for key stage 2 pupils.
Online review 2014

The Magic Bojabi Tree, Diane Hofmeyr, illustrations by Piet Grobler

Frances Lincoln Children’s Books ISBN 9781847805867 £6.99

What a delightful animal folktale from Gabon in the Rumpelstiltskin tradition of the importance of finding out a name. The animals on the African plain are suffering from ever-increasing hunger in the midst of a terrible drought. Suddenly they happen upon a magical tree laden with sweet-smelling fruit, but it is guarded by an enormous python coiled about its trunk. The only way he will allow access to the fruit is if they can tell him the name of the tree. One by one the animals set off to ask the King of the Jungle what it might be. With increasing annoyance, the lion tells each supplicant the name: Bojabi and each time the animal, even Elephant, forgets by the time he returns. Only slow and steady tortoise takes the time to keep repeating it on the return journey, so that Python is forced to concede defeat and allow access to the fruit – just in the nick of time for the starving animals! Mood, humour, animal characterisation and the African plain are beautifully evoked by Piet Grobler’s wonderfully playful illustrations. These, combined with the repetition and rhythm of the tale, make it an ideal book for shared reading. In her foreword, Hofmeyr reports using traditional African percussion as she tells this tale, something which would be lovely to explore with Reception/KS 1 classes.
Sue Barrett, former primary deputy head and senior lecturer in Primary Education at Canterbury Christ Church University
Online review 2015

Make it Change (Whizzy Science), Anna Claybourne

Wayland ISBN 9780750277341 £12.99

This book offers some introductory ideas to science, aimed in my opinion at KS1 or lower Key Stage 2 as the book lacks the detail needed for use in Upper Key Stage 2. The text talks about the changes that can be made in material science and has some interesting experiments on how to do this! Experiments range from a spouting volcano to magic sticky ice cubes. The book would also be useful to any parent who wanted to try out some of these simple experiments at home. Whilst the book lacks detail it is on the plus side colourful, easy to ready and the instructions flow well. It is a fun introduction to the topic with simple yet effective experiments.
Tomos Buttress KS2 Teacher
Online review 2014

Mighty Mo, written and illustrated by Alison Brown

Little Tiger Press ISBN9781848958968 £6.99

Mo the raccoon is bored. He wants to find something amazing to do, so he escapes from his cage to see what he can find in other parts of the zoo. Spying the ice-cream van, he gives that a go, imagining himself to be ‘King of the sprinkles’, but he’s a bit heavy-handed with the equipment. He tries blowing up balloons, but goes a puff too far. His attempts at hairdressing leave the other animals looking ridiculous. What can he do? Fate plays a hand in Mo’s favour, when a robber tries to steal the golden dodo statue, and Mo is the only one who has the strength and speed to catch Big Ron the burglar. And so he has found his amazing thing and becomes Mighty Mo. Children aged 4 – 6 will enjoy this humorous, heart-warming tale and its bold illustrations. Maybe they can think of other things Mo could try in the future?
Pam Dowson, retired primary teacher and PGCE tutor
Online review 2015

My Little Book of Animals, Camilla de La Bedoyere

QED Publishing ISBN 9781781715055 £7.99

An accessible introduction to animals for KS1 children. The book covers animals from Grassland, Oceans, the Desert, the Forest and Cold places. The photography and page design are excellent, and the text is clear, for example ‘an elephant’s trunk is a nose, but it works like a hand’. My class enjoyed the photograph of the whale shark’s mouth, the giraffe finding it difficult to drink, and the chameleon’s tongue. There is much to learn and the book encourages further research.
Brenda Marshall, Head of English, Port Regis, Motcombe Park, Shaftesbury
Online review 2014.

My Name is Bob, James Bowen & Garry Jenkins, illustrated by Gerald Kelly

Red Fox ISBN 9781782950813 £6.99

Bob the cat and James, the owner he adopted, have become something of a phenomenon. Adult readers may be familiar with A Street Cat Named Bob and its sequel The World According to Bob, documenting how homeless busker James came to know homeless cat Bob, each transforming the life of the other. Now this true story is told in picture book form for children aged 5 - 8, and it’s well worth reading. Told in the first person from Bob the cat’s viewpoint, we learn how his previous owner, an elderly lady, went off in an ambulance one day, and although he tried to follow her, Bob ended up trying to live on the streets. After being ignored or rejected, he was finally accepted and cared for by James. The two became friends, and Bob, wearing his trademark scarf, accompanies Bob in his busking around London. This is a heart-warming tale providing much food for thought. The story is ideal for philosophy and PSHE, covering themes such as homelessness, hopelessness, friendship and aspirations. The original books have been translated worldwide and sold more than 700,000 copies. There is even a plan to film the story. Read it now, and be ahead of the game!
Pam Dowson, retired primary teacher and PGCE tutor
Online review 2015

Nonsense Limericks, Edward Lear, illustrations by Arthur Robins

Faber & Faber ISBN 970571302260 £9.99

There was an old rhymester named Lear,
There was an old rhymester named Laer,
Whose ditties were looked on as ‘dear’.
Their word-play was fun.
But sense was there none!
That mischievous rhymester called Lear!


Edward Lear, fortunately, wrote much better limericks than that, as this newly published Faber Classic reveals. Full of wonderfully ambitious rhymes (to challenge all those competent decoders!) as well as the recognisable limerick rhythms, this is an anthology to immerse children in and to enjoy and share together With its abundant word-play, including a Lewis Carroll - like use of words such as ombliferous, scroobious, borascible and umbrageous, children can be encouraged to be creative in their own use of words, or even to make up their own. With characters from Peru, Norway, Rhodes and Ischia, to name but a few, a familiarity with the atlas would not go amiss either! With the brilliantly expressive illustrations on each page from Robins, somewhat reminiscent of Quentin Blake’s, this is a must for every class library.
Sue Barrett, former primary deputy head and senior lecturer in Primary Education at Canterbury Christ Church University
Online review 2015

Princess Ponies: A Singing Star, Chloe Ryder

Bloomsbury ISBN 9781408854211 £4.99

I must admit to a certain degree of bias on approaching this book. It is very, very pink and sparkly, and with an author called Ryder I was certain I was looking at a formulaic written-by-committee text. However, despite the usual reservations about series books that are the fiction equivalent of Supermarket Value white sliced bread, this might just be considered to have a teaspoonful of added wheatgerm. The series is written by one person, Julie Sykes, who also writes under her own name. The writing is not challenging and in places clunky, but the plot is manageable for the emerging reader. If a child developed reading stamina through engagement with these, I would not be unduly worried. All you need to know to engage in booktalk with enthusiasm is that the heroine is Pippa, she enters the horse-kingdom of Chevalia via magic seahorse (in a time bubble so her family are frozen whilst she is off on her adventures) and that, anthropomorphism notwithstanding, these ponies are capable of the most amazing feats, from singing to boiling up wicked potions to wielding cameras (as part of the ponarazzi of course). And they do have rather too much of a fixation with looking good and visiting the salon to get some added sparkle. Let them enjoy and then wean them onto some wholemeal or granary.
Elizabeth Broad, Head of Primary ITT, University of Roehampton
Online review 2015

Scarlett and the Scratchy Moon, Chris McKimmie

Allen & Unwin ISBN 9781743361542 £10.99

Written by an award-winning writer, illustrator and artist, this story is introduced by publishers as a ‘unique and beautiful picture book about a child’s love for her pet dogs’. It is indeed an absolutely wonderful book and combines distinctive prose and exceptionally imaginative illustration. The author had input from his grandchildren, and this is evident in the way in which the text and imagery enables the reader to feel from the very first page as though they are a young child themselves. The text printed in the style of a child’s handwriting, and the enchanting layered and ‘scrapbook’ feel to the illustrations, helps this book to feel at once both magical and very real. I absolutely loved the layout of the script, hidden on different parts of each page, and linking in with the images so that both picture and word become intrinsically linked. There is so much to explore here for both younger and older readers, from the symbolic representation of feelings of loss and confusion (‘I had clouds in my eyes/ I can’t sleep, the moon is moving again, It’s scratching the sky’) to the use of size and style of text to depict different emotions (BREAKFAST TIME!). This book would be a fantastic resource to explore grief, play and family. The inventive and creative interpretation of bereavement from a child’s perspective is captivating, and the reader is guided through this day-by-day struggle as a child comes to terms with this new world. Though an introduction to bereavement, the book remains ultimately uplifting and would feature as well in personal, social and emotional literacy sessions as in English and art. It would be a valuable addition to any school library.
Laura Davies, Project Development Coordinator for Fair Foundations, Chwarae Teg
Online review 2014

So What!, Tracey Trussell, illustrated by Neil Price

Digital Leaf ) IBSN 9781909428195 £6.99

‘My best friend Lissy makes me really cross! Every time I say something she always says ‘So what!’’ Daisy tries to share her news: that mummy has bought her a white rabbit with long floppy ears; that she has a new pink dress with sequins to wear to Samantha’s birthday party; that she has been off school with a bad cold and cough; but all Lissy says is ‘So what!’ Luckily Daisy’s vivid imagination helps her to cope. Picturing incredible scenarios help to ease Daisy’s hurt and confusion and eventually give her the confidence to be happy again. An uplifting story of a battle with an emotional bully and one that will undoubtedly resonate with all children who have suffered at the hands of a ‘best friend’. This is a story that will leave such children smiling! Suitable for children aged 4 – 7.
Jo Kilpatrick, teacher, Rumney Primary School, Cardiff
Online review 2014

Spot the Puppy in the City, Alexandra Koken and Joelle Dreidemy

QED Publishing ISBN 9781781714843 £8.99

Spot the Puppy in the City is part of a series of ‘Spot the…’ books featuring the farm, outer space and the zoo. On each page the beautifully detailed illustrations give you plenty of different things to spot and interesting facts to find. A fun and exciting book filled with plenty of humour, the kind you know children will love to pour over while each time discovering something new. I introduced this book as part of a ‘choosing time’ selection for my Reception class. Many of them chose to sit or lie on their tummies with legs kicking in the air closely examining the pictures and gasping out loud when they had spotted something. They particularly loved the pages featuring the Natural History Museum complete with dinosaur skeletons! A lovely book, packed full of enjoyment for children aged 4 to 7.
Katherine Shean, Head of Early Years at All Hallows Prep School
Online review 2014

Spot the Reindeer at Christmas, Krina Patel & Tasha Percy, illustrated by Marc Mones

QED Publishing ISBN 9781781715727 £ 4 .99

A bright and fun Christmas activity book for the festive season. Pages burst with colour and the festive scenes will delight young readers during the holiday season. The book will keep young children amused and entertained as they search for hidden items and solve some crafty clues. Each page also includes an interesting fact about Christmas, recognising and celebrating different traditions from across the globe and how they came to exist. This broadens the book’s appeal across primary school aged children as the layout and content provides opportunities for differentiated learning. With such busy illustrations, children will be able to return to this book time and time again, seeking out new corners to explore. Early-learning concepts such as counting, identifying colours and recognising shapes are all explored in an engaging way and the book provides teachers with a useful and fun learning tool in the run up to the holiday season. The book is positively inclusive, depicting characters from both genders and from a range of cultural backgrounds. Another great educational and creative book from QED publishing.
Laura Davies, Project Development Coordinator for Fair Foundations, Chwarae Teg
Online review 2015

Stop That Barking Nina, written and illustrated by Anita Pouroulis

Digital Leaf ISBN 9781909428218 £6.99

Quirky storyteller Jules has two dogs, Nina and George, who she clearly adores. Nina is always well behaved while George digs up the garden, chews pencils and scratches the sides of the wooden coffee table, making mum and dad sigh and moan. But today it is Nina who is making mum frown. Nina won’t stop barking and even Jules can’t get her to stop. Jules becomes a dog detective and even tries to see the world from a dog’s point of view by getting down on all fours, but to no avail. Finally Jules realises that it is the big, yellow excavator machine that is frightening Nina and causing her bark. It seems that the solution for mum may be pink earplugs! This story is full of humour with playful illustrations using mixed media in the print as well as in the illustrations. The photomontage style gives the text a very contemporary feel. An original and amusing tale which is sure to be popular with dog lovers everywhere. Suitable for children aged 5 – 8.
Jo Kilpatrick, teacher, Rumney Primary School, Cardiff
Online review 2014

The Story Machine, Tom McLaughlin

Bloomsbury ISBN 9781408839331 £10.99

This is an inspirational book that celebrates the power of a little boy to create his own stories, despite his difficulty writing words. Elliott loves to find things and when he finds an old typewriter that makes letters and then words, he thinks it might be a story machine. Elliott is not good at writing letters and they keep getting jumbled up, but then he realises that he can make pictures with the machine and once he starts he can’t stop. The best thing about all his pictures is that they tell a story. Elliott uses the story machine so much that it begins to go wrong – no more machine means no more pictures and no more stories. Elliott is sad until he finds some paints and a brush and paints some pictures to tell a story. Elliott realises that it wasn’t the machine that was making the stories, it was, in fact, him! I loved this book and its message that you don’t always have to use words to make stories. The Story Machine is a delightful read for children aged 5 – 8. It is a book that may have particular significance for young children who share the same experiences of being dyslexic as the author and it is one that is supportive of the inclusive curriculum.
Jo Kilpatrick, teacher, Rumney Primary School, Cardiff
Online review 2014

The Strongest Boy in the World, Jessica Souhami

Frances Lincoln Children’s Books ISBN9781847804112 £11.99

Based on a 13th century tale, Kaito a young Japanese village boy dreamed of becoming a champion wrestler who would become very rich and famous. In order to prove his strength he sets off to the city of Kyoto to compete in a wrestling competition against the country’s greatest wrestlers. On his journey to the city, he meets Hana, an incredibly strong girl who takes it upon herself to train Kaito after seeing him and hearing his story. This book challenges gender stereotyping in a fun and humorous way that is totally engaging to the reader. Hana encourages Kaito’s training, setting out his diet and exercise regime for three weeks in preparation for meeting his enormous wrestling competitors. Arriving in the city, Kaito encounters some ridicule by the bigger wrestlers but surprisingly skinny Kaito wins the tournament outright. He gets a prize casket and the offer of living at the Emperor’s court as the Imperial Champion, which he declines. He accepts the casket and sets off to present the prize to his true champion, Hana, who made his dream come true. Touchingly in the end, Kaito was truly rewarded and blessed by the Gods, as were his fellow villagers whose crops grew tall and plentiful. The people were happy, and the story of Champion Kaito became famous. This is a beautiful retelling of an old tale, enriched by action-packed illustrations that capture the humour and bring the story and characters to life.
Eileen Mary Pike, teacher and Principal, St Oliver's National School, Carlingford, Ireland.
Online review 2014

Tell Us a Story Papa Chagall, Laurence Anholt

Frances Lincoln Children’s Books ISBN 9781847803399 £12.99

Anholt's simple narrative approach works well in this picture book, which introduces the reader and listener to the life and works of Marc Chagall seen through the eyes of his twin grandchildren, who are visiting him in the South of France. Through the stories he tells his beloved twin grandchildren, Chagall recounts some important little snippets of his life with the use of several of his most famous paintings. The reader is brought on his extraordinary rags to riches journey from a topsy-turvy cottage life in Russia, his training at art school; meeting his wife Bella; the birth of his daughter, Ida; coming to America to escape the Nazis; and his prolific work after WWII. We travel through his happy childhood, through the dark years of the war and finally emerge in the sparkling sunlight of Southern France. Reproductions of some of Chagall’s more famous paintings are incorporated by Anholt using colorful, squiggly artwork to complement Chagall's own paintings, which makes for a pleasing mix of illustration. An interesting story perspective for a picture-book yet it is successful in easily guiding the reader in words and pictures through the life and works of Marc Chagall.
Eileen Mary Pike, teacher and Principal, St Oliver's National School, Carlingford, Ireland
Online review 2015

There’s A Diplodocus At The Door, Aleksei Bitskoff & Ruth Symons

QED Publishing ISBN 9781781711552 Hardback Price £3.99

There’s a Diplodocus At The Door really does bring dinosaur facts to life! What would happen if Diplodocus went to eat in a restaurant? What if he needed a shower? What would happen if Diplodocus went to a firework display? These questions and many more are answered, giving a host of information about the Diplodocus by imagining ways in which he would have coped with the modern living. The authors use everyday scenarios to illustrate some Diplodocus facts in a humorous and fun way. The book concludes with a Diplodocus passport of facts. Colourful, vibrant pictures support the text and make for an enjoyable and informative read. This book would be perfect for supporting the ever popular dinosaur theme with children aged 4 – 7.
Jo Kilpatrick, teacher, Rumney Primary School, Cardiff
Online review 2014

Time To Read: Miss Fox, Simon Puttock, illustrations by Hilary Swain

Frances Lincoln Children’s Books ISBN 9781847805454 £4.99

The Time To Read series is a collection of books designed to support the development of decoding and early reading. Created in consultation with a literacy specialist, the series includes simply written stories which are intended to aid young children’s confidence in independent reading. In this particular text, Miss Fox is a teacher, who delights in being a ‘wonderful teacher’. She plies her class with sweet treats and yummy delights and her class love her: all except for Lily the Lamb. Lily seems to have sensed that something is not quite right and refuses to be charmed by the wonderful Miss Fox. The simplicity of the text, along with the supporting illustrations, gives developing readers the opportunity to gain a sense of achievement in their reading progress. The Time to Read series could also support guided reading sessions for KS1 children as there are a few possibilities to develop inference and deduction alongside decoding skills. Other titles in the series include: Flabby Tabby; Bumposaurus and Max and the Lost Note.
Tracey Parvin, Senior Lecturer, Primary Education, Canterbury Christ Church University
Online review 2015

Ultimate 20 Beasts and Monsters, Tracey Turner

Franklin Watts ISBN 9781445114514 £11.99

This is an exciting looking book, somewhat reminiscent of an ‘annual’ (hardback, strong colours and a cover featuring terrifying monster eyes and teeth staring out from behind a huge number 20) and, as such, instantly attractive to children. Inside it has a ‘B movie’ feel with full colour illustrations and text in coloured boxes. It is one of a series of Ultimate 20s (other titles include subjects as diverse as deadly snakes and footballers) and works along the lines of the ‘Top Trumps’ card game. Each monster has a statistics chart and is awarded points for qualities such as strength, intelligence, speed, magic…but, confusingly, the lower the number, the better your chances of winning. You do need two copies of the book (although polite sharing could work almost as well) and quite a funny alternative game is suggested if two different titles in the series are to hand: ‘Can Bobby Charlton beat king cobra snake?’ If you are looking for paired reading choices, especially for children who prefer gaming to reading, then these books might fit the bill.
I learnt some new facts. I now know that Mokele Mbembe lurks in the Congo Basin River in Africa and that the Phoenix adds cinnamon and myrrh to its nest. But at £11.99 and only 24 pages I think this is quite an expensive purchase.
D. J. Holmes, Sexey’s School
Online review 2014

Welcome to the Family, Mary Hoffman & Ros Asquith

Frances Lincoln Children's Books ISBN 9781847804617 £11.99

This is a terrific addition to the canon of texts that validate difference and acceptance. Taking as a starting point ‘it takes all sorts’, Welcome to the Family moves swiftly into identifying a range of ways a child arrives in a family. The word welcome is used liberally throughout, and added commentary on the text – wry and pithy – is provided by the teddy that appears on a number of the pages. The book explores different kinds of families: nuclear, blended, single-parent, same-sex, and different ways in which babies can be conceived. I particularly like the teddy holding the instructions for making a bear (fabric (furry) + stuffing + eyes + sewing) at the beginning of the section on different paths to conception, who thinks ‘making teddies seems easier’. The whole is celebratory and accepting whilst recognising that life is complex: blended families don’t always mix like a milkshake; sometimes the birth parents cannot look after their children; all families have their ups and downs. The final message of Welcome to the family, however you got there, and a last page in which children explain their own particular route to conception promotes the message that every individual is special. Mary Hoffman’s text and Ros Asquith’s lively illustrations combine to produce a book that is thought-provoking and accessible in its approach to a complex and sensitive subject matter. This book can be shared across a wide age range and will provide a focus for discussion on many different levels.
Elizabeth Broad, Head of Primary ITT, University of Roehampton
Online review 2015

When Angus met Alvin, Sue Pickford

Frances Lincoln Children’s Books ISBN 9781847805249 £6.99

This colourful and somewhat wacky book for younger readers gives children the opportunity to explore the possibilities created when their routine world is shaken up. Although set in outer space, the story explores how to respond to an intrusion of one’s personal space, with the blurb challenging the reader: ‘What would you do if a bossy alien crash-landed his spaceship in your garden and flattened all the flowers?’ When an exciting but exasperating alien does just this to Angus, he has to use all his skills to get rid of him, yet still manages to befriend him in the process! This is a story which will spark the imagination of young minds, as well as making them laugh, and it is a unique way to explore the idea of how to be a fun friend who also respects the needs of others. Moreover, it would be a brilliant basis for a piece of instructional writing on ‘How to Get Rid of an Annoying Alien’.
Rachel Cordon
Online review 2015

You are (not) small, Anna Kang, illustrations by Christopher Weyant

Hachette ISBN: 9781444918304 £11.99 Hardback

If you enjoyed Rosenthal and Lichtenheld’s Duck! Rabbit! then you will appreciate the complexity of the philosophical debate beneath the simple prose of this very amusing story. Two bear-like creatures meet and exchange views over size: ‘You are small.’ ‘I am not small. You are big.’ Numbers of others like themselves lend weight, they believe, to their viewpoint, but neither will budge and it descends into a shouting match. The unexpected show-stopper of a double page in which two enormous green furry feet have arrived with a ‘BOOM!’, followed by a double page of small pink creatures falling by parachute, brings a sudden new awareness to the warring parties. It is now all a question of perspective and who is standing next to them. They hone their analysis further when they realise they can now both be big and small and so, having worked up an appetite, decide to go and eat. The final page, however, is delightfully unexpected. There’s a whole new debate to be had! Sparse repetitive prose in large print and bold, cartoon-like illustrations of these appealing creatures set in white space make this an enjoyable book to read aloud or for newly independent readers to enjoy. It could lead easily to discussion about how we see things from our own viewpoint, how we often ‘label’ people and how our inter-relationships can affect all of it.
Sue Barrett, former primary deputy head and senior lecturer in Primary Education at Canterbury Christ Church University
Online review 2015

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