Ages 7-9 [Lower Key Stage 2] 2014

Aesop's Fables (The Classics), Beverley Naidoo, illustrated by Piet Grobler

Frances Lincoln ISBN 9781847805300 £12.99

Aesop's Fables transcend cultures and have entered all our psyches. How refreshing, therefore, to find them given a new lease of life by setting sixteen of them in South Africa with animals, birds and insects from that part of the continent. Beverley Naidoo cites part of the rationale for this is that so little is known of Aesop, the name might well have derived from 'Ethiop', which could explain the placing of so many African animals in his fables. This fits well with African folk-tales too, she says, which often illustrate a proverb.

This collection includes well-known favourites such as The Lion and the Mouse, but she has incorporated some South African words, so that less familiar tales include The Rinkhals and the Snake-Eagle. All of them contain the familiar lazy, foolish, wise, loyal animals we have come to expect, but they are given new, vibrant personalities through the use of some African dialect words and most of all, Grobler's wonderfully whimsical, witty and colourful illustrations. Each tale has its own colourful border and is a visual delight. Young readers, however, are not spared the gruesome fates suffered by many a foolish creature, but the brevity and matter of fact delivery do go a little way towards mitigating the effects! This book provides a perfect vehicle for studying the genre as well as providing a multicultural perspective from Y2 onwards. The hardback version also makes a perfect gift or school award.
Sue Barrett, former primary deputy head and senior lecturer in Primary Education, Canterbury Christ Church University
Online review 2015

Billy Bonkers: It’s a Crazy Christmas, Giles Andreae

Orchard Books ISBN 9781408300541 £4.99

Every year many of us read the same stories to our children at Christmas. Deservedly they all have a place in our hearts, ranging from the Polar Express to A Christmas Carol. But every so often a new Christmas themed book presents us with the chance to spread a little new Christmas magic. I was lucky enough to find myself reading Billy Bonkers. It is a fantastic book that has three short stories, all perfect length for a one off festive guided reading session! The stories are hilarious for both adults and children alike. The only problem is trying to stop the laughing that the book provokes. I loved how the stories developed the humour through descriptions. Some of the humour was in the form of an obvious joke, whereas others were a masterclass in how to develop humour through detail. The characters are interesting and constantly refreshing. Billy is a child that most children can relate to, a little troublesome but thoroughly likeable. I also liked that the book used a different font in certain places which I find children really need to be exposed to if they are to truly understand how to decode. This is a fantastic book, especially for a relatively low cost! A real find!
Matthew Wilson, key stage 2 teacher, St Paul’s CIW Primary, Cardiff.
Online review 2015

Boyface and the Quantum Chromatic Disruption Machine, James Campbell, illustrations by Mark Weighton

Hodder Children's Books ISBN: 9781444922073 £5.99

This first novel has a most bizarre storyline and an equally unusual set of characters. Mr Antelope is a stripemonger like his father and grandfather before him, Mrs Antelope steals things and their ten year old son, Boyface, wants to join the family business. Stripemongering involves taking the stripes from one thing (an irritable tiger for example) and transferring them to another via a machine called the Quantum Chronic Disruption Machine. One day Mr Antelope is ill and Boyface is put in charge of the shop. He is joined by his school-friend Clootie Whanger and that is it really. The entertainment value in this book comes not from the plot, which is slight, but from the ‘off the wall’ descriptions and ‘wild’ dialogue. This is not a book for struggling readers as some of the language is difficult and the paragraphs are long. The illustrations are imaginative and there is a strong sense of Professor Branestawm about them. This book could be included in your class or school library for those students in the 7 to 10 range who enjoy a story with eccentric characters and fantastic ideas.
Debra Holmes, English teacher, Sexey’s School, Bruton, Somerset
Online review 2015

Cakes in Space, Philip Reeve, illustrated by Sarah McIntyre

OUP ISBN 9780192734563 £8.99

Take a winning combination of author and illustrator, a handful of humour, a sprinkling of scary bits (deliciously scary bits?),a dollop of inventiveness and a huge helping of imagination – and what do you have? Cakes in Space. There is a lyrical quality to the opening lines that tells you that Reeve is not planning to ‘talk down’ to his audience: The trouble with space is there’s so much of it. An ocean of blackness without any shore. A never ending nothing.

Astra and her family are en route to a new life on Nova Mundi – a journey that will take 199 years. With a message of ‘be careful what you wish for’ we are plunged into Astra’s adventures, when she finds herself the only human awake with 99 years of travel still to go. Showing courage and resourcefulness, Astra encounters e-bugs and e-beetles and confronts killer cupcakes and ferocious Florentines. What is the weapon most feared by cakes? A cake fork of course. Astra uses one to save the day.

This is a fast-paced story which lends itself to being read aloud, with enough cliff-hangers to generate booktalk between helpings. The print/illustration ratio will ensure that once it returns to the class library, it will be high on every confident young reader’s wish list. And when they tire of that, you can point them in the direction of this talented duo’s previous title Oliver and the Seawigs. A book to share with a younger KS2 class.
Elizabeth Broad, Head of Primary ITT, University of Roehampton
Online review 2014

Charlie's War Illustrated - Remembering World War One, Mick Manning and Brita Granström

Franklin Watts ISBN 9781445110332   £11.99 

Charlie joined up as soon as Kitchener’s finger pointed at him from the poster.  This is the story of WWI through his memories, as told to his grandson, the author - a personal dimension which is affecting without being overly sentimental.  The scrapbook style is most effective: 32 thoughtfully and attractively designed pages include appealing bite-sized chunks of text, photographs, cartoons, cigarette cards and good full colour illustrations.  All of the key aspects of the war on the Western Front are covered, the emphasis being on the soldier’s view.  Young readers will also be drawn in by the references to horses, Greece and Egypt, hospitals and letters home, tanks, ships and zeppelins, as well as by the glimpses of Charlie’ s life before and after the war.  The narrative is clearly tied in at start and finish with the continuing importance of Remembrance Day.  Highly recommended. 

Leslie Smith, Head of History, Port Regis, Motcombe Park, Shaftesbury

Daisy and the Trouble with Sports Day, Kes Gray

Red Fox ISBN 9781782952855 £5.99 e-book available

Kes Gray’s eponymous heroine is back for yet another of his popular ‘trouble’ series. The pressure of the imminent school Sports Day weighs heavily on Daisy, but she is not about to shirk her responsibilities, even if she hasn’t qualified for her chosen event. She and best friend Gabby embark upon her ‘Go for Gold Exercise and Eating Plans’ with real gusto, causing a certain amount of mayhem as they train, particularly with eggs! There are irritating and overly competitive peers to deal with along the way, but when Daisy has to swallow her pride to obtain the much vaunted turbo chewing gum, will it be enough to bring her victory? Kes Gray’s first person narrative romps along with pace and humour and with its trademark repetitive phrase, ‘the trouble with...is...,’ lends itself to both being read aloud and providing a satisfying read for newly independent readers. Garry Parsons provides the monochrome illustrations throughout which both enrich the text and act as encouragement for young readers, while the popular and experienced Nick Sharratt is the cover illustrator who puts Daisy firmly centre-stage. Besides the story, there is a helpfully indexed ‘Trouble Index’, along with word searches, puzzles and interesting facts at the back of the book. Daisy fans will be completely hooked!
Sue Barrett, former primary deputy head and senior lecturer in Primary Education at Canterbury Christ Church University
Online review 2015

A Day I Remember: an Indian wedding, Prodeepta Das

Frances Lincoln Children’s Books ISBN 9781847804464 £11.99

This delightfully presented book gives a highly personalised account of an Indian wedding. The narrator is young Swayam who has been given a very prominent part to play in his uncle’s wedding rituals. Swayam takes his reader through the series of ritualistic events which surround Hindu weddings, all of which are illustrated with beautifully natural photographs which lend an intimate air to the book. In fact, the images are so vibrant that, if one were to listen really carefully, it is possible to hear the hubbub of excitement as the preparations are made: the sweep of the brush as it gently creates the mehndi patterns; the clink of the bracelets and the rustle of clothing; the music which fills the streets and the animated chatter which permeates the air. Through their reading, children will gain a real sense of how whole communities become involved in such important Hindu customs and traditions and there are many opportunities for cross cultural comparisons to be made. The perfect addition to any primary school library bookshelf.
Tracey Parvin, Senior Lecturer, Primary Education, Canterbury Christ Church University
Online review 2015

Dragon Gold, written and illustrated by Shoo Rayner

Firefly ISBN 9781910080047 £4.99

It's dressing up day at Harri's school, and he's made his own wonderful zombie costume, but as usual Ryan, with more than a little help from his dad, wins the competition. Ryan and his dad aren't bad people, just very keen to win, and with the financial resources to do it. But Harri is a competitive boy, and when the next competition is announced, he is determined to win. To celebrate St David's Day, their teacher challenges them to make a dragon fly for ten seconds. It so happens that Harri's mum runs a shop called Merlin's Cave, selling all kinds of strange and potentially magical items. One day they have an unusual customer who looks very much like the Happy Witch, a popular book character. She seems to know about Harri's ambition and the problem with Ryan, and helps out by giving Harri an egg that hatches into the very dragon he has drawn. When Tan the dragon hatches, Harri trains him ready for competition day on 1st March. Shoo Rayner is a well-known and very popular author and illustrator who knows how to engage young readers, as is ably demonstrated in this book for children aged 7 - 10.
Pam Dowson, retired primary teacher and PGCE tutor
Online review 2015

Easy Pen And Paper Tricks, Stephanie Turnball

Franklin Watts ISBN 9781445121772 £7.99

You can do amazing magic with a pen and some paper! This is one in a series of Easy Tricks books that is set out clearly and is a super introduction to the fascinating world of magic. The reader is guided through a host of magic tricks without the need for expensive equipment and the tricks can be performed just about anywhere. Each new trick is outlined on a double page with numbered instructions, supportive illustrations and a ‘handy tips’ box to make the tricks work perfectly every time. Some of the tricks are ‘self working’ tricks because you don’t need to do any secret moves yet the calculations always lead to a certain number. Other pen and paper tricks involve clever cutting, tearing, twisting, folding and pretending to write one thing while really scribbling another. A highly motivating non- fiction read for budding magicians that will appeal to boys and girls. Suitable for ages 7 – 11.
Jo Kilpatrick, teacher, Rumney Primary School, Cardiff
Online review 2014

EDGE : Ultimate 20: Weapons of War, Tracey Turner

Franklin Watts ISBN 9781445114736 £7.99

With text by Tracey Turner, this series of ‘Ultimate 20’ books covers 6 different themes – Supercars, Beasts and Monsters, Greatest Conquerors, Deadly Snakes, Footballers and Weapons of War. The dramatic and eye-catching layout used to promote the relevant facts and figures may prove a useful tool for practitioners keen to engage more boys in literacy. The range is also unusual in that it features instructions for a game based on the use of the series – a type of ‘Top Trumps’ which can be used with the same theme or across the different topic choices. This is another opportunity for teachers to engage those who might often turn away from ‘traditional’ literacy activities, whilst appropriate follow-up activities can be utilised to capture information that children have gleaned from the text. The game also allows opportunities for cross-curricular maths activities, using the criteria of weight, range and cost to complement these topic areas. The full series would offer ample opportunity to embed in popular school themes – such as Animals, WW1 and WW2 and Transport, and would make a useful addition to a school library. The colour choices and visual style of the series may mean it appeals more to boys than girls, but the interactive elements of the books should capture the imagination of both. Though more appropriate for KS2 readers, the use of imagery and ‘comic’ like layout means that some of the books may also be suitable for more able Foundation Phase pupils.
Laura Davies, Project Development Coordinator for Fair Foundations, Chwarae Teg
Online review 2014

The Egg; The Great Dragon Rescue; The Dragon Snatcher; Big Foot (Time to Read series), written and illustrated by M. P. Robertson

Frances Lincoln ISBN 9781847805515/9781847805522/9781847805508/9781847805492 £4.99 each

Each book in the Time to Read series offers a short but complete story ideal for newly independent readers. Three of the four titles here are about young George and his dragon which he hatches from an egg, teaching it essential dragon skills, and with whom he has adventures such as an encounter with a witch and fighting an evil wizard. The fourth title – Big Foot - tells of a young girl’s meeting with the fabled creature. Robertson’s detailed full-colour illustrations are a delight, perfectly complementing the language. Here’s the opening to Big Foot: ‘There is a creature lurking in the deep dark woods. At night he sings his sad song to an ice cold moon. One fat night I heard his song.’ And in a different mood, the opening of The Egg: ‘George knew something was not right when he found something curious under his mother’s best chicken.’ The books respect the younger reader, offering them a quality text perfect for discussion. Highly recommended for age 6 - 8. The author has a website at www.mprobertson.com.
Pam Dowson, retired primary teacher and PGCE tutor
Online review 2015

Elephant (Eye on the Wild series), Suzi Eszterhas

Frances Lincoln Children’s Books ISBN 9781847805034 £10.99

Suzi Esezterhas is an award-winning photographer and her photographs in this book of the newborn elephant calf from her birth to adulthood are stunning. My pupils were fascinated by the tenderness with which the elephant mother cuddled her baby by touching him with her trunk. The closeness of elephant families and the fact that mothers will even look after each other’s calves surprised us, as did the ability of adult elephants to remember old friends, and the strong friendships formed between male elephants. The close up photograph of the elephant’s wrinkled skin is amazing, as is the shot of the calf learning how to use his tusks to dig up plants and trees to eat. Fascinating facts about elephants are included, such as an elephant’s trunk contains 100,000 muscles and tendons, and elephants can recognise themselves in the mirror. This is an exceptional book for key stage 2 children and will inspire wonder in the natural world

Also in the Eye on the Wild series: Tiger by Suzi Eszterhas, Frances Lincoln Children’s Books ISBN 9781847805041 £10.99.
Brenda Marshall, Head of English, Port Regis, Motcombe Park, Shaftesbury
Online review 2015

The Ellie McDoodle Diaries: Have Pen, Will Travel, Written and illustrated by Ruth McNally Barshaw

Bloomsbury ISBN 9781408855973 £5.99

This could be described as a girls’ version of Diary of a Wimpy Kid, as it is written in a similar style – a humorous first-person diary, each entry illustrated with explanatory annotated line drawings. One of a growing number of titles already published, here we learn about Ellie’s adventures and misadventures with her aunt, uncle and cousins on a camping trip. She’s not at all pleased to be going on this trip, especially as she has a strong dislike for these members of her family. And when cousin Er-ick finds her diary, events take an unexpected turn. This is a fun read for key stage 2 children, where we learn a few games to play as well as enjoying the story. In an interview with Ruth McNally at the end of the book, she explains how she has kept picture diaries all her life, and gives tips for how to do it yourself; something I’m sure many children will be inspired to do. Ruth has a great website, well worth a visit. I particularly like this quote from her, good to share with young writers: ‘It was a long, tough road to publication. I worked very hard, rewriting and redrawing many times, trying to make it my best - and I am still learning. I’m still taking classes and pushing myself to do a better job on each book. When I was little I thought famous authors and illustrators did their art perfectly the first time. I learned that's hardly ever true.’
Pam Dowson, retired primary teacher and PGCE tutor
Online review 2015

Food and Cooking in Ancient Greece, Clive Gifford, illustrations by Paul Cherrill

Wayland ISBN 9780750282246 £8.99

An attractive introduction to aspects of life in Ancient Greece. The book describes food preparation and dining, food for the rich and poor, Ancient Greek kitchens, farming and fishing, trading foods and foods used to celebrate gods and festivals. Recipes for barley cakes, baked fish with feta, lentil soup, souvlakia and honey-sesame fritters are included. There is an informative glossary, further reading and interesting websites. My class enjoyed this book. They liked the balance of information, and photographs .There was much to learn, including how versatile olive oil was, that some tuna fish was caught by dropping big chunks of wood with spikes sticking out into tuna shoals, and that iris bulbs and peacock eggs were popular delicacies. Highly recommended for key stage 2.
Brenda Marshall, Head of English, Port Regis, Motcombe Park, Shaftesbury
Online review 2014

Girl Wonder to the Rescue, Malorie Blackman

Tamarind ISBN 9781848531345 £5.99

This book was originally published in 1994. Maxine is also known as Girl Wonder. She works with her brothers, the Terrific Twins, to sort out problems the family encounters. These include rescuing a puppy, making mum’s birthday present look big, unmasking a burglar, and trying to solve the mystery of the tooth fairy. The stories are fun and children can relate to the world they describe. The book is perfect for 7 year olds who want to develop reading stamina, and there are two more in the series.
Brenda Marshall, Head of English, Port Regis, Motcombe Park, Shaftesbury
Online review 2014

Hattie B Magical Vet: The Dragon’s Song, Claire Taylor-Smith, illustrations by Lorena Alvarez

Puffin ISBN 9780141344621 £4.99

Aimed at girls aged 7+, this is the first in a planned series of stories about ten year-old Hattie, who finds herself as Guardian to all the creatures living in the magical kingdom of Bellua. Hattie’s parents are vets and she is now called upon to use their profession herself to treat dragons, unicorns, mermaids and other mythical beasts. It seems that her streak of white hair and star-shaped birthmark identify her as the natural successor to her Uncle B, the current holder of the post, and so she finds herself magically transported to Bellua where she must help fight off the evil King Ivar, who wants to steal all the animals’ magical powers. Written is an easily accessible style, each short chapter has a cliff-hanger ending to tempt the reader on. Hattie is a likeable and determined character, whose love of animals and sense of adventure will strike a chord with many young readers. There is a supporting website with printable puzzles and useful teacher resources at www.worldofhattieb.com. Other titles due out in 2014 are The Unicorn’s Horn, The Faery’s Wing and the Mermaid’s Tail, with further titles due in 2015. I can see the multi-coloured spines of Hattie B books marching across the bookshelves of many young girls in years to come.
Pam Dowson, retired primary teacher and PGCE tutor
Online review 2015

The Herd Boy, Niki Daly

Frances Lincoln ISBN 9781847804945 £7.99

Set in rural South Africa, this beautiful picture book tells the story of Malusi the herd boy. Malusi must look after his grandfather’s sheep and goats and keep them from harm while they are grazing on the mountain slopes. It is a big job for a small boy. Malusi must stop them from getting too close to the edge of the deep donga and protect them from the hungry baboons and other dangers. Alone with his shadow Malusi dreams of great things and of one day being a fine President, despite his humble beginnings. This is a simple but inspirational story, inspired by the life of former President Nelson Mandela. The author’s question ‘What is there in the life of a herd boy that would help prepare him to become the shepherd of a nation?’ would be an interesting topic for classroom discussion. Suitable for children aged 6-9.
Jo Kilpatrick, teacher, Rumney Primary School, Cardiff
Online review 2014

How big is 43 Quintillion? Lynn Huggins-Cooper

QED publishing ISBN 9781781715628 £9.99

I’ll be honest – I’m not a maths fan, but if anything could grab my interest in the world of numbers it would be this book. Published to link with the 25th anniversary of the invention of the Rubik’s cube (the 43 quintillion of the title refers to the possible combinations on the famous puzzle), the book uses clear language and illustrations to explain every possible facet of numbers. So we learn about number systems historically and geographically and are helped to understand very large numbers indeed. For example, we are told that a pile of a million pennies would be 1.6 km high and be worth £10,000! Mind-boggling facts about unimaginably large numbers surprise and amaze us because they are presented in an easily understood way. Armed with this new knowledge, we are ready to learn about numbers in different contexts, such as statistics, money, time and science. Did you know that a blonde-haired person is likely to have more hairs on their head than darker-haired people? Or that the Harry Potter films have (so far!) grossed $934 billion dollars at the box office? With sections on unusual numbers such as bakers’ dozens; calculators and computers, Pi and Fibonacci as well as information on the Rubik’s cube itself, this most comprehensive book is highly readable for such a complex subject. Highly recommended for children aged 7 - 11.
Pam Dowson, retired primary teacher and PGCE tutor
Online review 2015

I am Cat (Mini Edition), Jackie Morris

Frances Lincoln ISBN 9781847805072 £4.99

A joy for cat lovers to savour and treasure, I Am Cat takes us on a feline journey of dreams. Sleeping, curled and warm, cat dreams of being a tiger, striped like the shadows, roaming in the jungle; a cheetah, a sharp-eyed running cat, as fast as the wind over the bleached African plains; a snow leopard dressed in a coat of thick dappled fur, shrouded in mystery; a lion lounging, heavy mane tangled in sunshine, gold, like the savannah; a jaguar swimming through warm river water. Cat dreams of being a lynx, a puma, a Scottish wild cat, an Asian fishing cat or the rare Amur leopard. Above all cat knows ‘I am cat’.
Beautifully illustrated wild habitats provide the dramatic backdrop for each spectacular and unique cat. I am Cat could be used to look at the variety of cat species, supported by the double spread information page at the back of the book. It would also be a great as a springboard for discussion about powerful word choices and the use of literary devices such as alliteration and metaphor. Suitable for 7+.
Jo Kilpatrick, teacher, Rumney Primary School, Cardiff
Online review 2014

I Love Baby Animals, Camilla de La Bedoyere

QED Publishing ISBN 9781781715413 £8.99

An appealing book with attractive photographs for Years 3 and 4. Each animal has a photo montage across a double-page together with an information box. Some of the photos are charming, such as the Canada Goose, the Flamingo and the Sifaka. My class enjoyed looking at, and learning from the photos, but we would have liked more information. We were told where some of the animals lived, but we would have liked to know where each of the species could be found. Having said that, we were inspired to research some of the animals. It is a popular book in our class library because it can be dipped into at odd moments.
Brenda Marshall, Head of English, Port Regis, Motcombe Park, Shaftesbury
Online review 2014

The It-Doesn’t - Matter – Suit and other stories, Sylvia Plath

Faber & Faber ISBN 97805714645 £5.99

It was a revelation to this reviewer to discover that Sylvia Plath had another side to brooding obsessions and angst, as encapsulated by the three charming tales in this collection. In the first, seven year old Max Nix, the seventh son, longs for a suit of his own in which to do all his favourite activities. When one arrives in the post with no addressee, Max waits anxiously as Papa and then each brother in turn lays claim to it. Fortunately each finds a potential problem with the somewhat strange suit, so Max finally receives it and promptly wears it for everything! So clever was the suit from fabric to design, that whatever he did in it, ‘IT DIDN’T MATTER’ which is also the meaning for what his name sounds like in German: ‘macht nicht’, a surprising philosophy from an author who struggled with self-consciousness.

Mrs Cherry’s Kitchen is an almost Blyton-esque tale about the mayhem caused in the kitchen when the appliances decide they wish to try each other’s jobs. Fortunately, there are two kitchen pixies on hand to restore order in this Fifties-like vision of a wife’s domain, from where she produces wonderful delights for her working husband and neighbour’s children. The final piece is the poem The Bed Book, a whimsical exploration of the different possibilities for beds from the jet-propelled, through the tank bed and elephant bed to the pocket-sized one. What a lovely opportunity for little ones to come up with their own ideas. David Roberts’ quirky illustrations bring the whole to life, while Plath’s lovely prose make this an overlooked classic.
Sue Barrett, former primary deputy head and senior lecturer in Primary Education at Canterbury Christ Church University
Online review 2015

Landing On My Feet, The Adventures Of Poohka The Cat, Adelaide Godwin

Digital Leaf. ISBN 9781909428232 £6.99

Poohka lived as a feral cat on a housing estate in Sotogrande, southern Spain. When he went missing and returned home with a very badly broken leg a month later, no one knew where Poohka had been but the adventures described in the story ‘Landing on my Feet’ are a possible version of events. Following a morning of storytelling amongst old friends, Poohka made a serious error of judgement which resulted in him being scooped up and dumped many miles from home by a garbage truck. Left for dead, Poohka was lonely, frightened and close to abandoning all hope. It was only through the support and encouragement of those around him that he begins the incredible journey homeward. Attacked by a vulture, captured by a wicked witch, caught in thunder and lightning and hit by a speeding car it is a journey that is inspirational, challenging Poohka’s strength of character and wit. Perhaps most of all it is a journey rooted in friendship, for without the love and support of those around him Poohka would have been unlikely to survive. I found Adelaide Godwin’s first novel compulsive and moving, atmospheric and quite unique. I am sure it will become a favourite with the 7+ age range.
Jo Kilpatrick, teacher, Rumney Primary School, Cardiff
Online review 2014

London – A Time Traveller’s Guide, Moira Butterfield

Franklin Watts ISBN 9781445110615 £13.99

This is an ambitious book, introducing children to key events and developments in London’s history over two thousand years and relating them to the surviving evidence. As well as pictures and photographs of buildings then and now, there are timelines and maps, costume ideas and a useful list of websites, but, in a hurry to cover so much, the text is not all as appealing as the time-traveller device suggests. The pages feel over-crowded, their colourful edges and backgrounds too strong for the quantity of text (in several fonts), while many of the photographs lose their impact by being rather small. Neither quite hooking the younger child nor sufficiently gripping the older, this will still be a useful additional resource for dipping and sharing, particularly for those living in or visiting London.
Leslie Smith, Head of History, Port Regis
Online review 2014

Made by Raffi, Craig Pomranz, illustrated by Margaret Chamberlain

Frances Lincoln ISBN 9781847804334 £12.99

Raffi feels different from the other children in the school – he prefers to be an observer from the wings rather than a participator in the rough and tumble of the school playground. When a teacher shows him how to knit, the responses from the other children are inevitable, but he sticks to his knitting needles and makes his father a birthday scarf. (Did you know that having to unravel your knitting is called tinking? – knitting backwards!). The journey to acceptance comes with the discovery – a revelation for both Raffi and his classmates - that his creative flair can save the day with a costume for the class play, and eventually the other children come to understand that this is what Raffi is. With supportive rather than protective parents in the background, there is an important point that it is Raffi who finds his own niche and works out how to balance being true to himself and being accepted by his peers. This is a theme that has been tackled before of course, but Raffiwears its message lightly and without resort to mawkishness or sentimentality.

A delightful book to share with a KS1/younger KS2 class which should provoke interesting discussion.
Elizabeth Broad, Head of Primary ITT, University of Roehampton
Online review 2014

My Little Book of Life Cycles, Camilla de La Bedoyere

QED Publishing ISBN 9781781715543 £7.99

A most attractive book for 7 year olds dealing with the life cycle of a frog, butterfly, penguin, sea horse, shark, chicken and kangaroo. Facts are clearly explained with excellent use of colour, diagrams photographs and font sizes. Words in bold are explained in a clear glossary and there is an index. My class was particularly interested in the sea horse and the kangaroo, perhaps because their life cycles are less familiar. At only £7.99 for a hardback book it is highly recommended.
Brenda Marshall, Head of English, Port Regis, Motcombe Park, Shaftesbury
Online review 2014

Old Possum’s Book of Practical Cats, T. S. Eliot, illustrated by Rebecca Ashdown

Faber & Faber ISBN 9780571311866 £5.99

So, which is your favourite? Mr. Mistofelees? Mungojerrie? Gus? or Macavity maybe? I was always very fond of Skimbleshanks myself. They’re all here, of course, and thanks to a new edition, humorously illustrated with black and white line drawings by Rebecca Ashdown, Eliot’s wonderful feline creations are waiting to be discovered by another generation. Who would guess that these famous cats are now over 70 years old? They still sparkle with individuality, the rhythms and rhymes that tell their stories still take us on journeys of discovery and make us wonder about cats we know. Perfect for reading aloud, Eliot’s verses should be on every bookshelf. Age-range 7 – 11.
Pam Dowson, retired primary teacher and PGCE tutor
Online review 2014

The Palomino Pony Comes Home, Olivia Tuffin

Nosy Crow ISBN 9780857633033 £5.99

The blurb states that this is a new series for girls who love ponies – so off you go, chaps – find something else to read. Motor bikes or football or some other suitably laddish interest. The story may well be written ‘with real knowledge and a genuine feeling for horses’ but there is little evidence of any expertise of plot development or even the crafting of a good sentence within these covers. The opening sets the tone: ‘The rider’s steely-blue eyes flashed angrily as she sat astride the golden palomino pony’. Cliché after cliché tumbles from the mighty pen and the whole is peppered with exclamation marks, faintly reminiscent of the pupil who, having just discovered adjectives, adverbs and punctuation beyond the full stop, feels the need to sprinkle them liberally throughout their writing. Characters are two-dimensional, and the plot signals every development leaving little to the imagination. Even when reporting events to another character, nothing is left to chance: we may just have read about the incident, but we will get a full re-run in the subsequent conversation just to make sure we have missed no detail. It is all here: mistreated pony, heroine who only realises half way through the book that the boy from up the road who helps her out is rather good looking (and dashing and brave and practical…), the anti-heroine determined to get back the pony by nefarious means, the heroine who is injured trying to help the pony escape (and rescued by the good-looking boy). I was half-expecting the pony to develop colic and then I turned the page… Needless to say, our impoverished but saccharinely good and brave heroine wins both boy and pony in the end – even though her arm is in plaster. Steer your pony-mad pupils towards Ruby Ferguson and the Pullein-Thompsons – the oldies are still the best.
Elizabeth Broad, Head of Primary ITT, University of Roehampton
Online review 2015

The Pet to Get: Lizard, Rob Colson

Wayland ISBN 9780750282888 £12.99

Lizards may not be the cuddliest of creatures to consider as pets, but they are fascinating, and this book – one of a series about unusual pets – offers good advice on becoming a lizard owner. The fact-file pages about several different types of lizard leave you in no doubt about, for example, their eating habits, which to some would be distinctly off-putting whilst others would find the grisly facts totally absorbing.
Heavily illustrated with arresting photographs and packed with information, perhaps the most important aspect of the book is the no-nonsense way in which caring for such an exotic creature is foregrounded. No animal should be bought as a pet without careful consideration, and the particular needs of a lizard would be daunting for some. Potential ownership apart, many young readers will enjoy the book just for itself.
Other potential pets covered in the series are ferrets, rats, snakes and spiders. Age range 7 - 11
Pam Dowson, retired primary teacher and PGCE tutor
Online review 2014

The Prince and the Potty, Nicholas Allan

Random House ISBN 9781782952572 £6.99

This is yet another boisterous romp of a tale from Nicholas Allan exploring the everyday challenges of life which affect even the Royal Family, which began with The Queen’s Knickers. In this case it is time for the Duke and Duchess to potty train their VIP (Very Important Prince) and so they visit the Royal Potty Workshop. After the hilarious potty history, the royal couple have to choose between a musical potty, an eco-friendly one, a carriage one and a robo-one. The choice is clear, but no-one could legislate for nanny’s forgetfulness, so on a family royal visit to a nursery, baby royal suddenly faces a huge problem: his robo-potty is nowhere to be found! Cheeky, funny but never entirely irreverent, Nicholas Allan’s playful stories will delight and amuse toddlers and young children. The watercolour illustrations are somewhat reminiscent of Helen Oxenbury’s and their varied page positions and size ensure they are entirely integral to the storyline. It is fortunate, perhaps, that the recent Scottish referendum result posed no threat to the Union Flag, since it is emblazoned across the front of this new publication. That, indeed, might have given rise to a whole new challenging story in this series!
Sue Barrett, former primary deputy head and senior lecturer in Primary Education at Canterbury Christ Church University
Online review 2015

Rubik’s Quest: Mission Invent A machines and engineering adventure, John Farndon

QED Publishing ISBN 9781781715581 £7.99

One of a series of books to mark the 40th anniversary of Rubik’s Cube, Mission Invent harnesses young readers’ problem-solving skills. Through the vehicle of trying to become the young toymaker of the year and thus save the company, the reader is cast as a young apprentice designer at Toy Towers tasked by Mr Jollypops to step in and save the day. At each stage of the narrative, the reader must solve a problem. Two or three solutions are offered, each with a different symbol and page number to turn to. A search for the chosen symbol on the designated page reveals whether or not it is correct, along with further explanation and the next part of the story. A wrong answer returns you to the original question. Problems featuring gears, levers, bridges and machines have supporting illustrations and there is a glossary of terms at the end of the book. The appearance of a saboteur in the storyline helps with motivation and the colourful illustrations, speech bubbles, text boxes and an array of characters sustain interest. The book is aimed at readers aged 7 plus and those keen on mechanics would enjoy it. Children who prefer a linear narrative, however, might find the endless switching between pages somewhat off-putting.
Sue Barrett, former primary deputy head and senior lecturer in Primary Education at Canterbury Christ Church University
Online review 2015

Secrets According to Humphrey, Betty G. Birney

Faber & Faber ISBN 9780571282494 £5.99

In Secrets According to Humphrey, the reader joins Humphrey the class hamster for another ‘unsqueakably’ good adventure. I had not read any of Humphrey’s nine previous adventures; however, he is a character well loved by many of the children in my Year 5 class and they assured me that this would be a highly entertaining read! The story is told from the perspective of a very perceptive class hamster that knows everything there is to know about the happenings in Room 26 … until mysterious secrets start flying around! The situations that Humphrey finds himself in as he helps his human friends to solve their problems make this a comical and, at times, touching read. Messages about empathy and friendship, which many children will be able to relate to, are woven in throughout and would provide a good context for further discussion. This is a story that would be enjoyed by children between 7 and 11 years old.
Claire Williams, Year 5 teacher, St. Andrew's C of E Primary School, Essex
Online review 2014

A Song for Jamela, Niki Daly

Frances Lincoln Children's Books    ISBN 9781845078713    £11.99

This book has vibrancy and spirit. Jamela is bored in the summer holidays. She sits around waiting for the Afro-Idols TV final. Aunty Beauty owns Divine Braids ladies hairdressing salon, and Jamela starts working. She is kept busy, but can't believe her eyes when Miss Bambi chaka Chaka, the glamorous Afro-Idols celebrity walks into the salon asking for a 'surpise' hair-do. All starts well but a buzzy fly disturbs everyone. Jamela is given the fly swat. Chaos follws when she smacks Aunty Beauty's bottom and the razor she is using cuts a swathe through Miss Chaka's hair. Luckly the celebrity is dozing. Jamela's sunflower handbag saves the day and the flowers are removed and braided into Miss Chaka's hair do! Miss Chaka Chaka invites everyone to the show, and dedicates her song to Jamela and thanks her for the sunflowers. This is a funny, busy, fast-moving story about a girl with spirit who has to show initiative. The illustrations are great fun, with excellent expressions and a sense of movement. The book has a useful glossary at the back. Niki Daly is an exuberant South African writer and this is an excellent book for Key Stage 2 pupils. 

Brenda Marshall, English 4-11 Number 39 Summer 2010

Steve's Dreams: Steve And the Sabretooth Tiger, Dan Anthony, illustrations by How Aaron

Firefly ISBN9781910080061 £4.99

It's the ordinary things in life that worry Steve, like going to the dentist. Looking out for the safety of the world is more in his style. His family are used to his concerns about various impending disasters, and when he finally plucks up courage to open an ordinary-looking package addressed to him from The Library, Steve is taken on an adventure even he couldn't dream of. From his bedroom window he finds himself in a library like no other; the library of dreams. The librarian has a task for Steve; to travel back in time to save the last of the Neanderthals, armed only with a stone. And so his time as a warrior begins, fighting off King Headcase helping a Sabre tooth tiger and going on a perilous but successful journey. There's an appealing quirky humour in the writing style, and a clever balance of the ordinary and the fantastic. The door is literally left open for further adventures, and Steve looks set to gather a sizeable set of followers. Age Range 7 – 9.
Pam Dowson, retired primary teacher and PGCE tutor
Online review 2015

There’s a Lion in my Cornflakes, Michelle Robinson, illustrations by Jim Field

Bloomsbury ISBN 9781408845608 £6.99

Of course, it’s perfectly normal for cereal companies to offer live wild animals to tempt customers to buy their products. So the only complaint that Mum and Dad have when Eric and Dan start collecting the 100 tokens needed for their free lion, is the amount of cornflakes the brothers will now have to consume. But it seems that everyone else is also busy collecting, and by the time the boys’ request arrives, the company have run out of lions, so send a bear instead. When this becomes a problem, the bear is replaced with a crocodile. There are wild animals everywhere in the neighbourhood – though they are remarkably benign. Speaking directly to the reader in a way that is immediately engaging, this delightful picture book shows that in stories, anything can happen. The bold artistic style perfectly complements the words and as with all good picture books, the illustrations add to the story, providing much material for discussion beyond what the written text tells us. This includes lots of examples of intertextuality. This is a book that can stand many re-readings and there are lots of opportunities for follow-up activities particularly in writing, art and drama. Age range 5-9.
Pam Dowson, retired primary teacher and PGCE tutor
Online review 2015

Uncle Gobb and the Dread Shed, Michael Rosen, illustrated by Neal Layton

Bloomsbury ISBN 9781408851302 £9.99

Michael Rosen 'gets' children and their love of all things whacky and zany. In Neal Layton, he has found an illustrator who can bring that 'whackyness' to life in the cartoon style young readers will love. Ten year old Malcolm lives with his mum and irritating Uncle Gobb who is on his case about everything, particularly the need to do more homework. School is no better, with mind-numbing tests and narrow-minded teachers. It is strange, however, how many of the school resources have 'Gobb Education' on them, so Malcolm and his friend Crackerjacker are determined to investigate. Encounters with genies, a spell in the Dread Shed stiffen their resolve to 'bamboozle and confuzle' so that Uncle Gobb can be banished, but will it work?

All this suggests a narrative in the usual way and not one which has an all-knowing and commenting narrator, a propensity for going off at tangents with non-fiction facts, flashbacks, wonderfully titled chapters of very varied lengths and plenty of handwritten pages, capital letters and other expressive print! Reluctant readers will love the humour and be hooked, though it must be said it might not appeal to those who want something more straightforward. Any adult sharing this will be aware of Rosen's implied criticism of an education system which does not value those who think differently, in which children's questions are so often undervalued and which seems to do little to narrow the social divide. Fortunately, Rosen has a far lighter touch than I, so that the book is brimming with fun. Good for independent, paired or small group reading in Y4/5, so that the humour can be shared.
Sue Barrett, former primary deputy head and senior lecturer in Primary Education, Canterbury Christ Church University
Online review 2015

What Ever After: Fairest of All, Sarah Mlynowski

Orchard ISBN 9781408334140 £5.99

Have you ever wondered what might happen if you were able to drop into a story? Well that's exactly what happens to Abby and her younger brother Jonah when the mirror in their basement whisks them to the land of Zamel and right into the middle of events in the story of Snow White. They arrive at the point where the wicked stepmother is trying to persuade Snow to eat what the children know is a poisoned apple and, horrified, they intervene and the apple is left whole. Realising that their actions have changed the entire story, they try to get things back on track, as well as figuring out how to get back home. This is a largely dialogue-driven text which gives the writing an immediacy and pace. With well-drawn characters and unexpected events Mlynowski skilfully eases us through the amusing tale. Snow has no understanding of everyday 21st century technology, while Abby and Jonah are surprised to meet seven dwarves very different from the Disney characters they know well. The Magic Mirror is also not what they expected. This is a very enjoyable and highly readable book and as the first in a series of adventures for the brother and sister it sets a high standard and certainly leaves the reader wanting more. Age range 7 -10.
Pam Dowson, retired primary teacher and PGCE tutor
Online review 2015

World Cup Football Record Busters, Clive Gifford

Wayland ISBN 9780750281072 £12.99

This is a very popular book. Children say there are plenty of books on football but very few based on the World Cup. The photographs are excellent, and children really enjoyed the older, black and white photos. Facts and figures are carefully chosen and are well displayed. We were fascinated by the fact that 199,850 crammed into the stadium in Brazil in 1950, and by Denmark’s Ebbe Sand who scored a goal just 16 seconds after coming on as a substitute in 1998. The penalty shootout double page depressed us when we learnt England are the least successful team having lost all three penalty shoot outs they’ve attempted. The triumphs of Brazil were fascinating, and Pele’s achievements were impressive. Pupils were pleased that four pages were devoted to the World Cup Women’s teams. The ‘Test Yourself’ quiz was popular, and the ‘But What does That Mean?’ glossary was useful. Overall the book is a welcome addition to a school library.
Brenda Marshall, Head of English, Port Regis, Motcombe Park, Shaftesbury
Online review 2014

Zeraffa Giraffa, Dianne Hofmeyr, illustrated by Jane Ray

Frances Lincoln Children's Books ISBN 9781847803443 £11.99

Beautiful illustrations depict the true tale of Zeraffa Giraffa’s great journey from Egypt to France in 1826. Zeraffa Giraffa is a captivating story of a young giraffe, captured on the African plain and shipped down the River Nile as a gift to the King of France. A young boy, Atir, takes care of Zeraffa on her epic journey across the world. The relationship between Atir and Zeraffa is wonderfully captured as he cares for her with simple touches and gestures such as drawing back the awning on the ship so that Zeraffa can gaze at the stars, and making her a waxed taffeta cloak so that she is protected from the cold temperatures of the Rhone Valley. Atir continues to lead Zeraffa through the countryside of France as thousands of people marvel at this creature. In Paris, Zeraffa is a spectacle and the city is overcome with excitement. Women stick on eye lashes to look like Zeraffa. Bakers bake ‘Zeraffa biscuits’. Dogs even wear spotted jackets! The King of France builds a special house in the Jardin des Plantes for the spectacular Zeraffa and on warm nights, the young princess visits the giraffe, once the crowds have vanished and the air is silent. As the princess strokes Zeraffa’s mane, Atir whispers stories to Zeraffa of a hot distant land. As the warm winds blow, they feel the kiss of Africa once more.

With gorgeous imagery, historical detail and subtle humour, Zeraffa Giraffa will entertain, amuse and capture young readers, scientists, historians, geographers and illustrators in many ways, offering huge opportunities for the further excitement of young audiences at home, or in the classroom.
Heather Babbs, Year 6 teacher, St. Joseph & St. Bede Catholic Primary School, Bury
Online review 2015

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