Ages 5-7 [Key Stage 1] 2019

reviews added July 2019

Lubna and Pebble by Wendy Meddour Illustrated by Daniel Egnéus OUP ISBN 978019 2771940 £10.62

Lubna and her father arrive by boat at a refugee settlement  -  a “World of Tents” .She picks up a pebble from the beach and draws a happy face on it. The Pebble becomes her friend, and she talks to it about her life. Then she befriends a young boy called Amir who arrives at the settlement. When Lubna’s father tells her he has found them a home, Amir is devastated. Lubna worries and has a sleepless night. In the morning she gives the Pebble to Amir, realising that he needs emotional support. Meddour’s text is simple and powerful, enhanced by Egnéus’ artwork. The picture of the fragile ship at the start of the book is moving. There are evocative close-ups of Lubna’s face which help us to share her perspective. The illustration of Lubna asleep in her “Daddy’s salty arms” arms is powerful as the child is encircled and protected by her father’s body. This is a tender, sensitive story about empathy, being a refugee, strength, loss and friendship. Highly recommended for age 4 – 11.


Brenda Marshall


The Perfect Sofa written and Illustrated by Fifi Kuo. Boxer Books Ltd. ISBN 9781910716410 £11.99

A very simple story of shopping for a new sofa told in 24 double page spreads!  Panda and Penguin seem to be living in domestic bliss together except for one thing - their sofa is too old. With rips and springs poking out they decide it’s time to go shopping and buy a new one. But, as anyone one who has been shopping for sofas knows, we all have a touch of Goldilocks inside us and Panda and Penguin are no exception finding each one either too small, too big, too squishy, too colourful, too old fashioned or too modern etc. After a tiring day they go home disappointed and flop into their comfortable old sofa realising, of course, they had the perfect sofa all along. With a few patches and a hammer and nails they fix up their old sofa as good as new.  Taken at face value this is a very simple read that even the youngest of children can enjoy. The illustrations are bright, bold and bursting with colour. They are, on closer inspection, full of humour. Who doesn’t love the picture of modern family life complete with pot plants, fairy lights and slippers. If you want to delve deeper into its theme, upcycling and living in a more environmentally friendly and less wasteful way spring to mind but, to begin with, just enjoy sharing the story, characters and illustrations. Age range 3 -6.

Jane Macleod

Giraffes Can’t Dance by Giles Andreae.  Illustrated by Guy Parker-Rees Hachette Children’s Group ( ISBN 9781408354414  £6.99

Thank goodness the opportunity for a 20 year anniversary edition has brought this wonderful book back into prominence and may introduce it to new generations. Ostensibly, this narrative - written in rhyming verse - tells of Gerald, whose natural giraffe shape makes him feel very awkward and clumsy when it comes to taking his turn at the annual Jungle Dance. Humiliation and rejection seem to beckon when suddenly a cricket pipes up and tells him just to listen to the moon and find his own music. With the aid of a cricket violin, Gerald is soon the star of the show and everyone wants to learn his steps.
Kindness to others, “dancing to one’s own tune”, social isolation are all important themes to explore, but there are also the rhymes with the same sound but different spellings like “sky/sigh” and the magnificently nuanced illustrations. Facial expressions, viewpoint and detail like the peanut violin are all worth poring over. Then there are dances to learn, animals and habitats to research, story predictions to make and characters to role-play. This is a multi-layered children’s classic for all Early Years and KS1 children to enjoy - as an entitlement!

Sue Barrett


The World of the Whale by Smriti Prasadam-Halls Illustrated by Jonathan Woodward Wren and Rook, ISBN 9781526360649       £12.99

The lives of whales have proved fascinating for young people for as long as I can remember and the subject has also been a staple of the curriculum.  This new title is a welcome addition to the books on the subject and is aimed at KS1. The book covers the whole of the whale family, including species that we do not always associate with them.  Although it has very simple text and it is limited to a few paragraphs per page, it is well written and the information is accurate.

The book is well laid out and very accessible with a clear contents page, chapters and a good index for searching. Each chapter is given a full double page spread and the illustrations fill the space.  The book itself is large format being 320mm x 250mm, but this allows for larger text size and plenty of room for those wonderful illustrations.  This work follows the growing popularity of illustration that could be described as ‘retro’ because of its 1950s feel and a sense of lino print or block printing.  This is definitely a strong contender for use in the classroom, especially as it can be used across a wide ability range. Age range KS1

Margaret Pemberton


Dogs in Space: The Amazing True Story of Belka and Strelka, Vix Southgate, illustrated by Iris Deppe. Wren and Rook ISBN 978-1526360700 £6.99

This is a fascinating true story. In 1960 two stray dogs were handpicked from the streets of Moscow to become space pioneers. Belka and Strelka followed a training regime to ensure they were suitable for their mission. They practised rocket simulations and wore spacesuits. Eventually they were launched into space and became the first ever living creatures to orbit the earth and survive the mission. On their return, the dogs became international celebrities. Less than a year later, the Russians felt sufficiently confident to send the first human into space. The final pages of the book put the dogs’ achievements into context in terms of the story of space. Throughout the book the text is clear and simple to understand. The illustrations are attractive and have a retro feel. The book offers much for discussion such as other animals that have helped humans, the morality of using animals in science, and issues about the space race. Highly recommended as an entertaining, informative and thought-provoking book for KS1.


Brenda Marshall


Kitten Rescue by Lucy Daniels Orchard Books  ISBN 9781408354148 £4.99

This is the first book in the relaunch of the bestselling Animal Ark series. Amelia’s parents have divorced and she is sad that she and her Mum have left their flat in York and are moving in with Gran. She worries about what it will be like in Welford. Will she make friends? Animal–mad Amelia starts to explore the village and discovers a cat and a Westie puppy. She meets Amelia Hayward and finds Animal Ark, where vets look after animals in need. She makes another friend, Sam, and they embark on an adventure to find the mum of some tiny kittens. A fast- moving adventure story which is fun to read, and offers opportunity for discussion of apprehension, change, adapting and fitting in. The book includes information about animals and there are tips on how to care for pets at the back of the book. Highly recommended for children aged 6+

Brenda Marshall


Red and the City written and illustrated by Marie Voigt. OUP. ISBN 978019276774-5 £11.99

The stark black, white and red cover leaves us in no doubt that this is yet another version of Little Red Riding Hood. Who would have thought there could still be ways of using this traditional tale?  Well, Marie Voigt has succeeded in bringing young Red right up to date. Walking with her dog from her home to Grandma’s house on the other side of the city, there are wolves in disguise all along the way. She doesn’t notice them, but we can spot their tell-tale outlines. The people in the city are also oblivious, being too wrapped up with their mobile phones and the distractions of city life. It’s not long before Red too is tempted away from her path until she is lost, and swallowed up not by the wolf but by the city itself. Thank goodness for her little dog, who’s been trying to keep her on the right path all along and now comes to her rescue so that, finally, the pair arrives at Grandma’s house.

This book is a classic case of deceptive simplicity.  Skim over the words and you will lose most of the truth of the tale; take your time, relate the words to the illustrations and you will find more than would at first appear, giving much to think and talk about. Age range 3 - 6

Pam Dowson


The Day Henry Met a Dog written and illustrated by Gilly.  O’Brien Press ISBN 978184719999   £7.99

This bright eye-catching picture book for children aged 4-7 years is based on the TV series “The Day Henry Met…”  As the title suggests in this story Henry meets a dog who is saddened by the fact she does not have a best friend.  The dog’s simple description of what she wants in a friend would lead to interesting discussion about what readers would look for in a friend. Henry decides to find dog her a friend. They adventure together in the jungle, in space and under the sea but fail to find dog the best friend she was looking for. Then she realises that Henry has become the best friend she needed all along. Hurray for Henry! Whilst the adults may have seen that coming it makes a great talking point for children, especially if you stop short of reading the last two pages. The text on the page is very varied in font type, size and layout mostly being in the form of speech bubbles. This style might appeal to more confident readers but could be tricky for younger ones. The book is ideal for reading aloud to children as there are lots of opportunities for characterisation and silly voices.

Jane Macleod


The Mud Monster by Jonnie Wild Illustrated by Brita Granstrom Otter Barry Books ISBN 1910959862978  £6.99

This is the second collaboration between this author and illustrator. It highlights a group of African animals featuring five flamingos and their wildlife friends. The jolly cast of characters are all fearful of the sinister Mud Monster. Everyone “knew it was huge, and they knew it was horrible” but no one had ever seen it until, one day, four mischievous monkeys find a huge, horrible gurgling mud monster down at the waterhole. As they scream for help the monster rises from the waterhole revealing itself to be five muddied flamingos “As muddy as can be.” They ask for help to get to the river to rid themselves of the mud and the monkeys oblige by carrying them. Soon all the creatures are muddy and monstrous looking so it is no surprise that, when the warthog comes across them, he too believes he has seen the horrible Mud Monster and so the story continues with other African creatures adding to the Muddy Monster creation. When they reach the river they are shocked to see the real Mud Monster already on the water…. or is it? The humorous story and bright watercolour illustrations will appeal to young animal lovers and enthusiasts. There is a page of information about environmental conservation at the end and royalties from the book support wildlife conservation in Africa. Age 3 – 6.

Jane Macleod


The Queen’s Lift-Off, written and illustrated by Steve Antony. Hodder Children’s Books ISBN 9781444934229 £6.99

This is fourth in the ‘Queen’ collection of picture books by author/illustrator Steve Antony, following The Queen’s Hat, The Queen’s Handbag and The Queen’s Present. Through sparse, but well-chosen text, we follow the Queen’s unexpected trip through the solar system, until she is sucked into a black hole. Fortunately, she is rescued and gets home in time for, of course, afternoon tea. A clear black, white, grey and yellow palette complements the text. Her Majesty is accompanied on her journey by a corgi and an increasing number of spacemen. Where have they all come from? How are they travelling? Are they trying to rescue her? Do they get home too? We don’t know! If you go to you can find a list of 25 things to spot in the book, such as Laika the space dog, a face on Mars and the American Flag as well as some references to other books in the series. This adds to the fun, but it would have been good to have this at the end of the book itself. Age range: 3 to 6.

Pam Dowson


This Drop of Water. A Look at the Water Cycle by Anna Claybourne. Illustrated by Sally Garland. Franklin Watts  ISBN: 9781445163659  £13.99

This delightful book for KS1 children has double page spreads on water and is very well illustrated. It could be read to the children by the teacher as an introduction to a topic on water and the water cycle or it could be used by children to research ideas about the water cycle. The book has suitable, clear and concise information in a very attractive form for younger children. Not only does it introduce the children to the water cycle but it also gives the chance to consider the importance of water in shaping our landscapes, how and where water is stored and the importance of water not only to people but also to plants and animals. This book is well written and an attractive way for children to learn about water and the water cycle. A marvellous addition to any primary school classroom or library.

Paul Baker


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