Ages 7-9 [Lower Key Stage 2] 2011

Booom, Alan MacDonald, illustrated by Mark Beech

Bloomsbury ISBN 9781408803370 £4.99

This 135-page paperback is of perfect length and language for a reader growing in confidence. Suitable for the 7-9 year old child it is the first of four books featuring the adventures of Iggy, a forward-thinking cave dweller living in the Valley of the Urks. Each chapter is self-contained, and of easy length for a bedtime read. The book is printed in a variety of fonts, which add to the stone-age setting and the author‘s language, although moderately basic, is descriptive and stimulates the imagination.

The narrative is witty and clever; it addresses the modern reader and gets them on side whilst engaging them in the past. The book is helped by its comical illustrations, which are very similar to those of the great Quentin Blake . The storyline is classic – the young child who is perceived to be useless saves the day with his practical quick thinking. Iggy is busy pondering why things float while the rest of his tribe are more focussed on bashing each other with rocks. One day, Iggy is reluctantly landed with a very special role and this means he has to help stop ‘Old Grumbly’ from wiping out the village, not to mention the Noneck tribe who are out for his blood! An enjoyable read.
Hannah Skottowe, Key stage 2 & 3 Teacher and Desperate Housewife!
Online review 2011

Doctor Proctor’ Fart Powder: The End of the World. Maybe, Jo Nesbo

Simon and Schuster ISBN 9780857073891 £5.99

The title isn’t the only long thing in this third instalment of Jo Nesbo’s Doctor Proctor series – it weighs in at a whopping 458 pages, which may put off some of the more easily frightened 7-year-olds, despite this being the target audience (according to the press release). But that minor whinge aside, both existing fans and new readers should enjoy this latest offering from the writer that most adult readers know better for a whole different genre – and it’s great to see a writer being so successful for both adults and kids. The End of the World. Maybe follows the continuing adventures of the little red-headed boy Nilly, his friend Lisa and the titular Doctor Proctor, who together conspire to turn wintry Norway into the most exciting place to be, as moon chameleons use reality TV to try to take over the world, before eating everybody and moving on to the next planet. The joy of this book is less the scatological humour you may expect from the series title, and more the imaginative gymnastics of Nesbo’s writing and the fantastic character of Nilly, for whom logic is never a barrier to enjoying life and saving the world. The half-man, half-frog teacher was pretty cool too. Recommended age: 7-10
Kristina West, Children's Literature PhD student, University of Reading
Online review 2011

Flying High (The Fairy School Series), Titania Woods illustrated by Smiljana Coh

Bloomsbury ISBN 9781408820360 £3.99

Twink is starting at Glitterings Academy, the fairy school. Children will identify with Twink’s experiences in starting a new school, such as fear of the teacher, saying goodbye to her parents, and promising to send them weekly butterflies! Making relationships with other fairies is not easy. Twink likes Sooze who is full of fun, but is wary of Bimi, the beautiful fairy. Twink is desperate to fly. When she is sprinkled with fairy dust she becomes anxious and cannot fly instinctively. She is unable to take part in the flying exhibition at the end of term, but pretends to her parents that all is fine. Eventually Bimi saves the day by faking a fall, suspecting Twink’s instinct will be to fly to save her. The plan works as Twink does not have time to be scared. Twink is thrilled, and revises her view of Bimi and Sooze as friends.‘I love Twink because she is like me. I get into a tiz and can’t do things until I calm down.’ Tamsin, aged 7: ‘I recommend the book to girls aged 6 to 8 for independent reading’.
Online review 2011

An Imaginary Menagerie, Roger McGough

Frances Lincoln Children’s Books ISBN 9781847801661   £5.99

This collection, from one of our best-loved poets, is an A-Z of animal poems.  Roger McGough’s menagerie includes real and imaginary rare breeds.  For the first time the author’s own illustrations have been included, the simplicity of which really add an extra dimension to the poems.

Poems about goats, hippos, sharks and seagulls sit alongside those about caterpillows, handfish, teapets and war thogs in this delightful book which will keep children amused for ages.  However, don’t be misled into thinking that the well known animals are as you would imagine – they all have the classic Roger McGough twist added!

The poems are very accessible for children to dip into or read as a collection.  They are all short in length and the use of rhyme in the poems adds additional excitement.

Learn the truth about the Loch Ness Monster; paso doble with the flamingo; find out where you can see a scallop gallop and learn all about the durianimal in this book.  The blurb challenges you to ‘choose your favourite from this witty and wicked menagerie’.  I don’t think I can!

Nick Ward, English 4-11 Number 43 Autumn 2011  

I Don't Believe It, Archie!, Andrew Norriss

David Fickling Books    978-0-857-56010-0  £10.99

To borrow the parlance of the texting generation, this is an lol book – every page will make you laugh out loud.  It recounts just one eventful week in the life of Archie, a week in which he leaves home to run simple errands and finds himself embroiled in one adventure after another.  He unwittingly saves his local library from closure, but only after being super glued to the door handles.  He inadvertently catches a bank robber, but only after narrowly avoiding arrest for shop lifting.  Then there are the curious incidents of the dead dog in his pocket, the kidnap in the park, the lion roaming in a neighbour’s house and the trundling piano . . . . and what is the role of the omniscient Cyd in all of Archie’s adventures?

At the end of each incident he returns home to a maternal Victor Meldrew, who cannot believe that Archie forgets to do even the most straightforward jobs like posting letters and changing library books.  Even after all the strands of the story are hilariously combined at the close of the week, Archie’s Mum remains unrepentantly despairing.

Norriss’s trademark comedic touch pervades every sentence of this book.  It would be thoroughly enjoyed by young independent readers for whom Shaw’s illustrations provide added humour.  But it would also be great to share the fun by reading it aloud to a class.  And reading this book may well make you glad that nothing much out of the ordinary ever happens to you.

Gill Robins, August 2011

Meltem's Journey, Anthony Robinson Illustrated by June Allan

Frances Lincoln Children’s Books ISBN 9781847800312 £11.99

Meltem’s Journey is a refugee diary which captures the life of a Kurdish girl who grew up in Eastern Turkey. Meltem and her family travel to England and the author relates this true story through Meltem’s own words. The diary extracts tell the journey from the way things were, to looking forward to the future. Meltem and her family experience hard times, including racial discrimination. Children could learn a lot about the plight of refugees and also better appreciate what it means to be free by reading this book. It really does make you think and empathise with the plight of others and promotes positive race relations.

At the end of the book is an interesting Did You Know section which gives facts about the Kurds and their home country. There is also a detailed explanatory text entitled ‘What Happened’ which gives background information about the history of the Kurdish people. The visuals are a clever mixture of maps, photographs and illustrations, which gives authenticity to the book. Meltem’s Journey would be a fantastic resource in school and would greatly enhance the teaching of this subject matter and also assist in the delivery of PSHCE objectives.

Nick Ward, English 4-11 No. 42, Summer 2011

A Roman Rescue (Charlie and Bandit Adventures), K.A. Gerrard Illustrated by Emma Dodd

Templar ( ISBN 9781848771918 £6.99

This time-travelling graphic novel should capture the interest of even the most reluctant reader. It tells the story of Charlie, who, in the hunt for his dog Bandit, falls down a sinkhole and finds himself in Ancient Rome. In a fast-paced narrative, Charlie discovers a lot about buildings, clothes, education and chariot racing. He eventually finds his way home, where he writes a factual notebook about Roman life.

This book is appropriate for the 7 – 9 age range, in particular if it was part of a Roman topic. A linked website to support this is planned. Eight year old Archie thought both boys and girls would like this book and he felt that it would suit children up to the age of 11. He particularly enjoyed the comic layout, detailed pictures and an imaginative approach to telling a story. ‘Creative, unusual and fun’ summed up his view.
Gill Robins, Deputy Head, Sun Hill Junior School, Hampshire
Online review 2011

Thomas has Autism, written by Jillian Powell

Evans Brothers Limited ISBN 9780237539290 £6.99

I was very impressed with this book. It is written in the first person so you immediately engage with ‘Thomas’ and see autism through his eyes. The book takes you through a typical day in Thomas’ life and explains some of the common behavioural traits that young children might otherwise find hard to understand and accept. We are not led to feel sorry for Thomas, nor are we told what to think, but the reader is guided toward what they might expect when meeting an autistic child and thus how they can better understand their behaviour. The book is illustrated with engaging colour photographs and its simplicity and clarity opens it up to a wide audience. Whilst suitable for pre-school children, it is also an informative source for older children too, who might make use of the glossary and ‘further information’ section at the end. A worthwhile book to have in any classroom or library, and a useful resource for teachers and parents who might need help in explaining the condition to children. It promotes understanding and acceptance; who can ask for more?
Hannah Skottowe, Key Stage 2 and 3 teacher
Online review 2011

Woolly Mammoth, Mick Manning and Brita Granstrőm

Frances Lincoln ISBN 9781847802101 £6.99

There is an enormous amount of information about mammoths in this book, presented in two different ways. The principal text is in a loosely rhyming form along with large colour illustrations, and is supported by straightforward nuggets of facts, which have line-drawn vignettes alongside. The story of how mammoths lived is told as though by an actual mammoth, and as such is anthropomorphised. As well as discovering facts about how the animals lived, we learn of how humans used the creatures to help them survive in an inhospitable climate. The book is most suitable for Key Stage 2 readers, and there is a useful glossary.
Pam Dowson, retired primary teacher and PGCE tutor
Online review 2011

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