Ages 7-9 [Lower Key Stage 2] 2010

The Art Room, Juli Beattie and Arabella Warner

Frances Lincoln Children’s Books ISBN 9781845079710 £11.99

This is an attractive, practical book about making works of art from everyday things. Juli Beattie is founder of The Art Room, a pioneering charity based at Oxford School that provides children with the chance to learn and achieve through art. The book gives advice on amassing a collection of art materials from households, junk shops and car boot sales. Twelve projects are demonstrated, including a button snowman, geometric fish, the Owl and the Pussycat puppet show and a copy of a Grinling Gibbons’ frame.

Instructions are clear and the colour photos are very helpful. I particularly like the way children can see what they might want to make, are provided with a range of examples and encouraged to let their own creativity fly. I also like the small coloured text boxes with each project, containing unusual facts such as, ‘the average household uses 375 plastic bottles a year,’ and ‘handkerchiefs were invented in the reign of Queen Elizabeth I.’ I recommend this book to Key Stage 2 children and anyone interested in inspiring pupils’ creativity.
Brenda Marshall, Head of English, Port Regis, Motcombe Park, Shaftesbury
Online review 2010

Black Death, Martyn Beardsley

Barrington Stoke    ISBN 9781842997659   £5.99

Black Death tells the story of Will, a young orphan sailor in Medieval England. He returns from a voyage to his home in Dorset, amidst rumours of a terrible illness sweeping the continent. Within days of his return, people in his village start to become ill, with terrible sores and boils appearing on their bodies before they die. The villagers begin to look at Will and his sister with suspicion and it is not long before they have to make their escape as Will is blamed with bringing the plague to their homes.

Martyn Beardsley has written an exciting, haunting tale, expertly weaving historical facts with moments of suspense and action. The frightening atmosphere of this period of history is well conveyed, with Will’s plight reflecting the suspicion and anger that comes with uncertain times. The reaction of the villagers offers an excellent opportunity to explore issues relating to prejudice and scaremongering in society and the media. The story would also be an interesting starting point to discuss how diseases are spread, and advances in medical and scientific understanding. I was particularly impressed with the ‘Historical Facts’ section at the back of the book, which explained more about the plague and events surrounding the epidemic.

Black Death is published by Barrington Stoke who specialise in books for reluctant or struggling readers. It would certainly appeal to reluctant readers towards the end of KS2 who may be drawn in by the dramatic events, gruesome descriptions of plague victims, and the eerie, deserted villages filled with the possibility of danger. As it offers opportunities for discussion it would also make a good guided reading text, also allowing the children to develop their fluency as the language is simple but engaging. It would also be suitable as a short class reader for younger KS2 children, particularly if linked to ongoing work focussed on this period of history.

Dominic Davies English 4-11 Number 41, Spring 2011

Dear Hound, Jill Murphy

Puffin     ISBN 97801323459    £4.99

Jill Murphy is the author of the hugely popular Worst Witch series. She based her latest story on her own experience. Her first Deer Hound went missing when her son was only six and this inspired her to write Dear Hound.

Alfie is a large, clumsy deerhound puppy who lives digging holes, cheese, causing trouble, chasing the cat, relaxing on his beanbag and Charlie, his master. Charlie and his mum go away for the weekend and leave him with a sitter. Alfie thinks he is being punished. Afraid he will never see his master again, Alfie escapes into the woods as a huge and terrifying storm approaches. Lost and alone, he meets a pair of foxes, Fixit and Sunshine, who look after him and teach him how to survive in the wild. Charlie is devastated by the loss of his beloved dog, and tries to find him. Months pass. Mum loses hope but Charlie's endless optimism that the dog will be found is heart-warming. There is much tension when, moments away from reunion, Alfie is kidnapped by Stan and Bert, who train him as a hunting dog. Eventually Charlie and Alfie are reunited.

Dear Hound is both a gripping, fast-paced adventure and a charming story of love and loyalty. The character of the naive puppy and the depth of emotional feeling of the young boy make this an appealing read. With more than 150 of the author's own black and white line drawings, the book is accessible to boys and girls. It is highly recommended.

Brenda Marshall, English 4-11 Number 40, Autumn 2010

Candy Girl, Karen McCombie

Barrington Stoke ( ISBN 9781842998755 £5.99

Barrington Stoke is an excellent publisher of books for dyslexic children. It is to their credit that they are expanding their repertoire of titles to include books that appeal to girls. Candy Girl is just such a book. The cover is pink and glittery and features a girl in modern clothes surrounded by hearts. Karen McCombie has hit the spot with her story. Dixie is excited about working for her favourite magazine, Candy.

She longs to mix with models at parties and interview celebrities but soon finds that working for Candy is not as she expects as some of her dreams are shattered. She is amazed by the difference between her image of Sharron Ford and Sharron Ford in the flesh. Dixie has to answer the problem page letters and this gives her insight into her sister’s pressures and difficulties. This is an excellent book that is great fun to read. It will appeal to key stage 2 girls.
Brenda Marshall, Head of English, Port Regis, Motcombe Park, Shaftesbury
Online review 2010

The Girl Who Married A Ghost and Other Tales from Nigeria, Ifeoma Onyefulu

Frances Lincoln Children’s Books ( ISBN 9781847800114 £5.99

Ifeoma Onyefulu is an author of highly acclaimed children’s books that celebrate traditional village life in Africa. She was brought up in Eastern Nigeria in a rich world of storytelling. Here she retells nine of the best Nigerian tales. Each has a moral, and the stories provide a glimpse into a world of animals and spirits. Why the Lizard Nods his Head has a message about greed. The Child Who Never Went Out depicts a childless couple’s pain before the arrival of a magical girl made from palm oil who must never be allowed to play in the sun. Tortoise tricks other animals so he wins The Great Eating Competition. In The Wrestler and the Ghost, the greatest wrestler in the world gets his come-uppance when he challenges a ghost. Oglisa, the proud girl who married a ghost, discovers that pride goes before a fall.

Each story is entertaining and quirky, and they read aloud well. The language is right for children, and the morals give the stories contemporary relevance. I recommend the book for key stage 2 children to read by themselves, although children of all ages would enjoy hearing the stories. The book would also be excellent for assemblies.
Brenda Marshall, Head of English, Port Regis, Motcombe Park, Shaftesbury
Online review 2010

Kamal Goes to Trinidad, Malcolm Frederick and Prodeepta Das

Frances Lincoln Children's Books    ISBN 9781845077020    £11.99

One in a series of Frances Lincoln books in which children return to their cultural homeland, this thoughtfully produced book details Kamal's visit to Trinidad and Tobago to visit his father's family. Every page is crammed with rich, colourful photographs which are visually stunning. Kamal includes everything from homes, clothes, food, sport and music to the varied geography and history of the islands, all rpesented in terms which are accessible to children at both Key Stages 1 and 2. A recipe for Kamal's favourite chicken meal is included, together with a comprehensive glossary.

The clear, logical layout and text of this book would facilitate independent research for older readers, whilst the pictures provide a wealth of detail for younger researchers too. It is a must for the school library, essential reading for a geography topic on the West Indies and a visual feast for any child who wants to learn about the culture of another country.

Gill Robins, English 4-11 Number 39, Summer 2010

The Mucker's Tale, Joan Lennon

Catnip Publishing Ltd    ISBN 9781846470936  £4.99

The Mucker’s Tale is a story of magic, mayhem and muck.  Lots of muck!  The plot follows the adventures of Mucker, whose job it is to muck out the flying horses, and his friend Princess Emmeline.  They are both desperate to learn magic, but in the kingdom they live, magic is not for princesses and stable boys.  All is well in the kingdom until the arrival of the raiders, who have come to steal the flying horses.  Is this the chance for Mucker and Emmeline to save the kingdom and to learn some magic at the same time?

There is a lot of humour throughout the story which readers will love, particularly as many of the jokes revolve around horse muck!  The plot moves on quickly and keeps the reader engaged, with lots of action and adventure along the way.  With it medieval setting, the story will appeal to lovers of the television series such as Merlin and Robin Hood with its magic spells and swordfights.  Children will also love the fact that a young boy and girl become the heroes of the day and save the kingdom through their acts of bravery and cunning plans.

The language used is quite simplistic making it accessible to those who are struggling to read but want high interest stories to capture their imagination.  There are, however, examples of technical language and some words would be hard to decipher for those reading independently, whereas more able readers might become frustrated with the lack of complexity.  The Mucker’s Tale would make a good class reader for children in Y3 or Y4, and would link well with literacy units linked to adventure stories, or myths and legends.

Dominic Davies, English 4-11 Number 41, Spring 2011

The Parade. A stampede of stories about Ananse, the Trickster Spider, K.P. Kojo

Frances Lincoln   9781847800121   £5.99

Have you ever wondered why leopards have spots, why snakes don’t lie in straight lines or why hippos live in water?  If you have, this is the book for you.  K. P. Kojo is an experienced storyteller, but The Parade is the first time he has published his stories in written form.  The book contains six tales about the roguish spider Ananse and his antics in outwitting other animals.  Set in Kojo’s and Ananse’s homeland of Ghana, the traditional purpose of African stories is retained - each tale involves creative thinking and a moral, teaching children about the dangers of pride and greed.

Anyone who has heard Kojo telling stories can hear his voice on every page of this book.  What the written text can’t capture is his sense of fun and the physical actions that bring his stories to life and give them pace.  Nevertheless, this book will transport you to Africa as you get caught up in the rich descriptive text and fast moving narrative.

The Parade would be suitable for any confident reader to enjoy independently.  It could also form part of a theme on storytelling or Africa for children across the primary age range.  With their simple structure, clear meaning and amusing characters, these stories could also inspire children to write their own narratives.

Gill Robins, English 4-11 Number 41, Spring 2011

Wasim One-Star, Chris Ashley  

Frances Lincoln Children’s Books    ISBN 9781847801081   £4.99

Written by headteacher Chris Ashley, this story is based on his personal experience of taking a class of children swimming.  Staff in school will really be able to relate to the characters and dialogue in the story and I’m sure that many of the pages will bring a smile or two to your face.  A super book to read to your class as the children will also be able to identify with the story and settings too.  Wasim is desperate to be a One-Star swimmer and the recognition he will receive from his headteacher Mr Abbot in the weekly assembly.  Twenty-five metres – gulping, spluttering, no armbands – a red star on a piece of card.  One Star.  However, things seem to get in the way.  The story deals with friendship, acceptance and perseverance and promotes a very positive message to children in a lovely way.  The dialogue is written very effectively and is really true to life. 

Another great book from the author who brought us Wasim the Wanderer and Wasim’s Challenge – I wonder what Wasim will get up to next?

Nick Ward, English 4-11 Number 41, Spring 2011

Share this page: