Ages 7-9 [Lower Key Stage 2] 2020

reviews added May 2020

Uncle Gobb and the Plot Plot by Michael Rosen Illustrated by Neal Layton Bloomsbury ISBN: 9781408873953. £6.99

This third book in this popular series sees the welcome return of Malcolm, his friend Crackersnacker the genies and the weasels in a new battle against Uncle Gobb and his relentless pursuit of fact-driven education and ‘rich knowledge’. Dad is over temporarily from America with Lizard, half sister to Malcolm. She, along with cousin Wenda, is a clever foil to Uncle Gobb and his nasty genie and enable Malcolm to feel better about situations which often worry him. Clever plotting over the disputed plot of land sees Uncle Gobb finally defeated and then rather diminished by his genie. Luckily, Malcolm has a kind heart and gathers him back into the family. This anarchic series with its comic characters, word-play, tangential asides, running jokes and a wonderfully silly appendix, provides a very appealing bridge from picture books and reading schemes into chapter books - especially for reluctant readers. Layton’s hilarious cartoon- style illustrations, the font changes and speech bubbles all help to make the pages appealing and easy to navigate. Warmth, the value of family love and themes of loyalty and friendship underpin the story, which along with a slightly vulnerable hero add to the non-threatening aspect of the book. Perhaps now, though, Mr Rosen could use his prodigious talent to write something new and slightly more challenging to take these readers to the next stage rather than offer more of the same, however successful the formula.

Sue Barrett


Toto the Ninja Cat and the Superstar Catastrophe by Dermot O’Leary illustrated by Nick East Hodder Children’s books ISBN 9781444952063 £6.99

Toto the ninja crime busting cat is off on a well-earned holiday to a music festival. Far from restful however, she soon finds herself embroiled in a quest to prevent her nemesis Archduke Ferdicat hypnotising the crowd for his own wicked ends. Luckily Toto’s skills and her trusty helpers mean she is eventually able to save the day. This is a fast paced, lively adventure story. There is lots of humour, in particular word play; the festival, for example is called ‘Catstonbury.’ The black and white illustrations are excellent and really enhance the narrative, developing this highly inventive story world and the characters too. Capitals and bold print leap from every page – sometimes for no apparent reason, the story is engaging enough without this distraction. Inspired by the author’s own real-life rescue cats, this book is the third Toto adventure by the same author illustrator team. Independent readers aged 7-9 who enjoyed reading Toto’s previous adventures will find this a welcome next instalment.

Sue McGonigle


The Last Human by Lee Bacon Illustrated by George Ermos Piccadilly Press ISBN 9781848128248 £6.99

I really loved this book, and think it will appeal to a wide age-range. It has some challenging vocabulary to stretch the more able reader, but is also written in a very fun and accessible way with short chapters and a playfulness with imagery and text. It is a really original concept, written from the viewpoint of our chief protagonist the twelve-year-old robot XR_935. It would be a wonderful book to read alongside any topics which look at the environment or technology as it is the perfect stimulus for some challenging philosophical questions. The book introduces us to a world in which humans are no longer present, and through the narration of our diligent, curious robot it raises questions about environmental destruction, consumerism and division. Despite the weight of these topics, it is also an incredibly uplifting story and, by the end, we have persuasive arguments in favour of human’s interaction with the world. It would be a great prompt for a class debate to develop oral skills, as well as just a really interesting read to reflect on during any circle time. A great addition to any school library. Age range 7 - 11

Laura Davies


Skeleton Keys: The Haunting of Luna Moon by Guy Bass Illustrated by Pete Williamson Stripes, ISBN: 9781788951043 £6.99

This is the second book in the Skeleton Keys series. Skeleton Keys is a talking skeleton who has keys instead of fingers that can open doors to secret worlds. Luna mourns the death of her grandfather, Old Man Moon. The rest of the family are delighted that he has gone. Then there is a strange occurrence. Aunt Summer vanishes and reappears as a painting in the Horridor.. What is going on? Is Old Man Moon haunting them from beyond the grave, or is it the work of “unimaginaries”, imaginary friends who have become real. Skeleton Keys is determined to solve the mystery. This is an exciting, strange, Gothic story with twists, humour, magic, “fantabulant questions and fantabulant answers”. The book itself is like an ancient volume with blackened page edges and fabulous illustration reminiscent Gorey. As Skeleton himself says in his introduction, which whets the appetite, it is “a hum-dum-dinger of a tale set to send your thoughts running for cover.” Highly recommended for children aged 7-9.
Brenda Marshall


Boot: the Rusty Rescue by Shane Hegarty Illustrated by Ben Mantle Hodder ISBN 9781444949391 £6.99

Boot the Robot is an appealing character and I enjoyed his first book, Small Robot, Big Adventure. This book does not disappoint. Again the story is set in the future where robots do all the work that humans find dull. Gerry and his friend, Boot, are on a carousel when Gerry’s ping-pong ball nose falls off. They decide to find a new one and visit the Testing Lab where humans test new things that will be sold in shops. There they discover an old, broken robot who needs help. The subsequent adventure involves a gym, bouncy castles, a half-built skyscraper, a birthday party, a rubbish bin truck, a taxi and much, much more. The story moves at a quick pace and is full of interesting characters and fun. It is also sensitive and encourages readers to think about artificial intelligence, humanity and feelings. An excellent read for 7-9 year olds.

Brenda Marshall


Boot: small robot, big adventure by Shane Hegarty Illustrated by Ben Mantle Hodder ISBN 9781444949360 £6.99

This is a truly delightful and heart-warming story set in a future world where robots are used to fulfil all the work that humans find boring and ordinary. The story starts when this small robot ‘wakes up’ in a scrap yard and cannot remember much of his past; however the word ‘Boot’ is in his memory, so he assumes that this is his name. After escaping from the evil Flint, who wants to crush him, Boot decides to try and find his original owner. He is gradually remembering more things and knows that he was owned by a young girl called Beth and that he sometimes went close to the river so, with the help of some new friends, our hero goes in search of his owner.

I found this a totally enchanting story with a lead character who gains more humanity and feelings as time goes on. Shane Hegarty, who wrote the amazing “Darkmouth” series, has now written a brilliant story for slightly younger readers; it is full of adventure, ideas about a future with robots and what we mean when talking about human feelings, family and friendship. This is a tremendous story for lower KS2, but would be lovely to read to slightly younger children. It is highly recommended.

Margaret Pemberton


Agent Weasel and the Abominable Dr Snow written and illustrated by Nick East Hodder Children’s Books  ISBN 9781444945300  £6.99

Agent Weasel, legendary super spy, is taking part in an Alpine sporting event, The Winter Whopper Games with his woodland friends. Always on duty, he discovers strange disappearances taking place, of hot chocolate and competitors too. He discovers this is the work of arch villain Dr Snow who is seeking woodland – wide domination by turning everyone into zombies using mind-controlled chocolate activated by flash camera. With the help of his trusty team, Agent Weasel quickly pursues the villain and rescues his captives managing to cope with a sudden avalanche at the same time.

Second in the series by the author who is well known as an illustrator, this is a zany adventure story suitable for independent reading in years 3 or 4, (aged 7-8 years). Occasional asides to the reader pointing out this is what you’d expect to happen in a story like this may prompt thoughts or conversations about other books, characters, story lines and outcomes. The cast of characters, who are all woodland creatures, may prompt interest in British wildlife.   The illustrations are fun and match the story style well, the map of the story world at the beginning of the book is a nice touch.

Sue McGonigle


Dragon Detective: Catnapped! by Gareth P. Jones Little Tiger ISBN 9781788951678 £6.99

Dirk Dilly is a dragon detective in London who conceals his true identity. He manages this because people in London never look up! A girl called Holly phones him to say her cat is missing. Dirk thinks the investigation will be dull, but more cats go missing and new dragons arrive in London. Soon Dirk and Holly are involved in a fast-paced thriller which entertains and amuses the reader. Originally published in Great Britain under the title The Case of the Missing Cats, it is back “with a new look, tweaked title, and an updated text.” Highly recommended for children aged 6 – 9 who like action packed detective stories with plenty of humour and unexpected twists.


Brenda Marshall


Imagine A Special 30th Anniversary Edition by Alison Lester  Allen & Unwin ISBN:9781911631590  £11.99

I cannot believe it has taken thirty years for me to come across this magical book! The simple premise is that two children, a girl and a boy are playing imaginary games up a tree, in the snow or on the rug inside, each time imagining if they really were in the jungle, under the ocean or back in dinosaur times. This is conveyed for each of the seven habitats by seven lines of image-creating poetic text ending with an ellipsis: the precursor to a magical double-page spread depicting each place in delicate and intricate watercolour detail. Around each spread are listed 20-30 animal names all identifiable thanks to a clever key for each at the end of the book. I came across many names I did not recognise, especially amongst the dinosaurs and was inspired to investigate further. Children from KS1 to KS2 will feel the same. They could also investigate and then create their own pages for other habitats: desert, deciduous woodland, rock pools. The list is endless and can be linked with English, Science and Geography. Equally they could explore that ellipsis technique and think of their own sentence endings. This highly honoured Australian author has produced a timeless classic to introduce children to the wonders of the natural world and to inspire their natural imaginations. Have a copy in every classroom, particularly this attractive edition.


Sue Barrett


Supercats vs Maximus Fang by Gwyneth Rees Illustrated by Becka Moor  Bloomsbury ISBN 9781408894224 £5.99 Also available as an Ebook

Gory Gus, the villain, is back in town, and plans to break his partner in crime, Maximus Fang, out of Cat’s End Prison.  Topaz leads a top-secret team of supercats who fight crime.  She sends Tagg, whose superpower is camouflage, and Sugarfoot, whose superpower is a super yowl, on a mission to stop the jail break, which involves them infiltrating Hamish’s gang of Hit Cats. Gory’s super power is telekinesis – moving things by using his mind – and Maximus’ power is weather control. The story is fast paced and fun, with plenty of excitement and tension along the way. Attractive illustrations enhance the text and add to the fun. At the back of the book is an interesting section called Meet the Supercats and a quiz to check if your cat has superpowers. An enjoyable action packed animal story for children aged 6+.

Brenda Marshall


Princess BMX by Marie Basting Chicken House ISBN 9781911490944 £6.99

A brilliant bonkers story, with fantastic descriptions and elaborate characters. Packed with fast action sequences and naturally lots of BMX bike riding, Princess BMX will astound and delight readers with vivid imaginations. The central premise is an upside down fairy tale. Our heroine is Princess Avariella – a lively but bored Princess residing in the magical world of Biscotti. When she accidentally locates a portal to the real non-magic world, known to us as North London, she also discovers a latent passion for BMX riding as well as loyal group of non-magic children who team up with our hardy heroine. The story is multi layered as it switches between the two worlds with some amusing descriptions of life in the slightly loopy world of Biscotti. With never a dull moment and masses of detail which children will love, the pace is nonstop. As Princess Avariella would probably say herself, “oh my giddy goblin, what a ride!” Age range 7 – 11.

Hilary Payne


The Great Outdoors Woodland  Explore Nature with Facts and Activities by Lisa Regan Wayland ISBN 9781523610682 £12.99

This charming book is part of a series that encourages children to look at and appreciate nature on their doorstep. First we are introduced to the wonderful world of woodlands. There is a good mix of information, drawings and photographs. Pages are well laid out and facts are presented in accessible bite-size chunks, with effective use of coloured backgrounds and fonts. The book is especially strong at showing us what can be found in local woodland, such as birds, flowers, fungi and logs. Clear instructions are given for activities that enhance learning. I particularly liked making a spore print. Children are encouraged to protect woodland by thinking about their use of paper, recycling, and going paperless where possible.  There is a multiple choice quiz where readers can check that they have absorbed key information, as well as a contents page, index and list of books and websites to encourage further research. An excellent book that will inform and inspire children aged 7+ at home or school.

Brenda Marshall


Unbelievable Football – The Most Incredible True Football Stories You Never Knew by Matt Oldfield Illustrated by Ollie Mann wren and rook  ISBN 9781526362445 £6.99

This is an excellent book for a football fan aged 7+. The information is appealing and wide ranging, including the World War 1 Christmas truce; the greatest women’s football team of all time who played their last match in 1965; the Busby Babes; the player who faked his own death on the football pitch and the psychic octopus famed for his predictions in the 2010 World Cup. The style is informative and warm, and the text is well-spaced on the page which will attract reluctant readers. There are several role models and examples of resilience such as Di Stéfano, Roger Milla and Didier Drogba. This book can be read from cover to cover or dipped into. At only £6.99 it is excellent value.

Brenda Marshall


Trailblazers: Harriet Tubman by Sandra A Agard Stripes Publishing ISBN: 9781788952224 £6.99

Harriet Tubman was an amazing lady. A slave who escaped from the South via the ‘Underground Railway’ to the North; who returned time and again to lead other slaves to freedom; who worked for the Unionist Army in the American Civil War; who campaigned for Women’s Suffrage, and who set up a home for old people with no other means of support. What a life story! She deserves to be much better known, although a feature film, [the first], about her was released in the autumn of 2019.

This title, in the ‘Trailblazers’ series, lets us discover her story. Contextual detail helps the reader to make sense of events, and charming black and white illustrations break up the text and try to personalize the narrative. Her bravery is portrayed in a ‘matter of fact’ way, which makes it even more impressive to read. For a woman who could neither read nor write she certainly left a real legacy. This book is a fitting tribute to her story, appropriately pitched at the right level to absorb young readers aged 8 - 10. Highly recommended.

Alf Wilkinson


Nose Knows by Emmanuelle Figueras  Illustrated by Claire De Gastold What on Earth Books   ISBN 9781912920068     £14.99

I read this book to my Year Two class (children aged 6 and 7 years) and they absolutely loved it. They were enthralled by the subject matter, as was I!  I am not sure I have ever read a book all about the nose and smelling but now I have, we all feel much the wiser for it. The ‘lift the flaps’ were great fun, but also very informative and they certainly added to the interest of the book. Although some of the vocabulary might suit older children, aged 7-10 years, this did not detract in any way from the enjoyment and the children were gripped with each session of me reading from the book. The illustrations are also wonderful and, in fact, make this book something of a showpiece. The drawings are fun, yet accurate and life-like, adding to the educational value of the book. I would certainly give this as a gift for a birthday or Christmas, to any budding little scientist or lover of animals. All in all a hugely successful read and one that I will revisit again and again when teaching the children about our senses in science.

Charlotte Townsend


Eight Princesses and a Magic Mirror by Natasha Farrant     Illustrated by Lydia Corry Head of Zeus   ISBN 978178854115 £12.99

This book is beautiful to look at, and captures all the magic of a traditional book of fairy tales. In its hard-back form, adorned with bright and appealing illustrations, it would make a brilliant addition to a library or school book corner, and also a lovely gift for the home. There is one wonderful and modern exception to the traditional tales within this book – all these stories subvert the usual stereotypes and bring to life princesses who ‘refuse to be pretty, polite or obedient’. Instead, these girls are ‘fierce, brave and determined to do the rescuing for themselves’. Capturing the current trend for turning traditional tales on their head, the stories contained within this volume are great fun and include strong and aspirational characters. With a vast array of themes and settings, (from mountains and deserts to city tower-blocks and urban dwellings), each tale stands alone. A lovely book to dip in and out of, it would be great as a stimulus in a P4C session looking at stereotypes and how they have evolved over the years. It could be the basis of some great work on re-writing other familiar tales and so perfect for English lessons.

Laura Davies


Mr Penguin and The Catastrophic Cruise by Alex T. Smith. Hodder  ISBN: 9781444944570 £9.99

This is the third Mr Penguin book and it does not disappoint. This time he is on board a luxury cruise ship because his friend, Colin the spider and kung fu expert, is performing with the Ladies Choir. Mr Penguin is looking forward to having a rest. There are famous film stars, a carnival atmosphere and plenty of fish finger sandwiches. However all is not as it seems and Mr Penguin soon finds himself with a mystery to solve. The story moves at a good pace and the text is well-spaced with plenty if illustrations. Children aged 6 – 8 will enjoy the humour, the fun and sense of adventure. Bravo Mr Penguin!

Brenda Marshall

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