Ages 7-9 [Lower Key Stage 2] 2013

Amazing Esme and the Pirate Circus, Tamara Macfarlane, illustrated by Michael Fowkes

Hodder ISBN 9780340999950 £5.99

This is the second book in a series about Amazing Esme and even though the book stands alone, I felt it would have been useful to have read the first book in the series. The book is aimed at 5-8 year-olds and what I really liked about it is that it is a punchy, boyish tale yet the lead character is a girl. It’s unusual to find a book suitable for both genders (although the pink-coloured title would probably discourage most boys I teach). Esme is clever, feisty and rather dextrous.A schoolgirl, high-wire circus performer who, with Donk her seasick donkey, manages to get the family out of trouble with the vengeful pirates who are chasing their ship. Aside from the main plot of rehoming various animals recused from the aforesaid pirates in book one, the reader is also party to Esme’s conflicting relationship with her jealous cousin, Cosmo and his struggle with being in the shadow of his high-flying cousin. He plots his revenge on Esme by catapulting her and Donk into the high seas…
The book was fun to read, even if the plot was somewhat disjointed in places. There was a touch of the Dahl in the characters and the writing was descriptive with witty illustrations throughout. A nice touch at the end was Esme’s photograph album and activity book which allows the reader to interact and offers some helpful teaching ideas too like making up a treasure hunt or designing a ship. Suitable for upper key stage 2.
Hannah Skottowe, key stage 2 and 3 teacher
Online review 2013

Arts and Crafts Tractors and Trucks, Rita Storey

Franklin Watts ISBN 9781445126944 £7.99

Bursting with creative ideas based on the popular topic of tractors and trucks, through the pages of this book we learn how to make so many things: a model tractor; a digger picture with moving parts; textured countryside scenes; a magnetic tractor game; a trucker’s lunch; and a mosaic fire engine picture. Each new task is clearly set out over a double page. A brief narrative puts the project in context and is followed by a list of the things that will be needed and then numbered stages leading to completion. There are supportive illustrations and photographs throughout. A contents page and index are included, together with further information, a CB radio glossary and a truckers’ phonetic alphabet. Suitable for children aged 7 – 11 and younger children with support.
Online review 2013

Barmy Blogs: Dastardly Dictators, Rulers and Other Loony Leaders, by Paul Harrison, illustrated by Alex Paterson

Wayland ISBN 9780750277204 £8.99

This is clearly a very well-researched book. Its 93 pages are jam-packed with little-known, slightly ‘out-there’ facts about a wide range of monarchs and leaders. There are black and white illustrations on each page; some are cartoons, some are realistic (and rather beautifully drawn) and some are a bizarre mixture of both, and all are likely to appeal to KS2 children. Titles and text are in a range of easy-to-read fonts. There are quizzes and a Barmy-O-Meter. This is not really a book for reading from cover to cover, but I should imagine many children would enjoy dipping into it. Naturally, given the title, it focuses on the unusual habits of the aforementioned leaders and ignores, because this is not the point of the book, the human rights’ abuses and often wide-spread suffering that often occurred as a result of their eccentricities. And therein lies the problem for me as a teacher. Do I really want my students to think of Stalin only in terms of a huge, unfinished statue of Lenin, or of Thomas a Becket in terms of his horse-riding monkeys? Should we encourage flippancy around the subjects of tyranny and mental illness? Exactly the same can be said, of course, about the ever-popular Horrible Histories series and, no doubt, children will enjoy these unusual bite-size facts presented in an attractive format. In class this book could always be used as a springboard for wider discussions.
D. J. Holmes, English teacher, Sexey’s School, Bruton, Somerset
Online review 2013

Beatrice’s Dream: Life in an African Slum, Karen-Lynn Williams; photographs by Wendy Stone

Francis Lincoln Children’s books ISBN 9781847804181 £ 7.99

The voice in this lyrical and beautifully written book is that of Beatrice, a 14 year old girl living in Kibera, Nairobi. You can almost hear her saying the words in a sing-song voice as she tells of the hardships faced in everyday life in a Kenyan shanty town. Accompanied by Wendy Stone’s photographs, this book makes it clear that life in Kibera is hard and very different to that experienced by the reader, making it a good choice for geographical work about contrasting localities, throughout key stage 2. Kibera’s inhabitants are ‘among the world’s most deprived people’ but their daily routines are familiar, normal everyday aspects of life: going to schools, meals, the weather. Explaining life in a shanty town through the voice of a girl is effective and engaging; Beatrice has dreams and ambitions, she is observant, guides through the rigours of life. Simply told but well written, a must for a topic on Africa.
Kaye Wilson, Year 6 teacher at Holy Cross Catholic Primary School, Leicester
Online review 2013

Cheesemares, Ross Collins

Barrington Stoke ISBN 9781781121917 £5.99

If ever a book could perfectly illustrate how to be funny, engaging and dyslexia-friendly, Cheesemares would probably be it. From the jokes and maze hidden under the cover flaps, to the short chapters and spacing of the story over Barrington Stokes’ trademark yellow pages, the structure is all there. But it is the genius that is writer and illustrator Ross Collins who makes this a story well worth reading for both mainstream and challenged readers. After weeks of nightmares related directly to his consumption of different cheeses before bed, Hal and his fat dog Rufus, decide to investigate the mystery of the Cheesemares. Their journey takes them to Mr Halloumi’s cheese shop, then onto Contessa Von Udderstein’s (not-at-all-evil) House of Cheese, where the intrepid duo must solve the mystery and save the world from evil cheese. The story is laugh-out-loud funny, the prose is sharp and witty, and the illustrations are brilliant, with the expressions on the face of Rufus the fat dog worth reading the book for on their own. Absolutely loved it! Recommended age: 7+
Kristina West, Children's Literature PhD student, University of Reading
Online review 2013

Colm’s Lambs/A Rosette for Maeve?, Anna McQuinn, illustrated by Paul Young

O’Brien/Irish Farmers Journal ISBN 9781847173393/409 £6.99

Publishing house O’Brien has teamed up with The Irish Farmers Journal to offer this new series, Glenmore Valley, focusing on children’s experiences of the rural life in Ireland. Accompanied by lively and funny illustrations from Paul Young, Anna McQuinn offers two stories showcasing both the fun and the occasional heartache of life as a farmer’s child. In A Rosette for Maeve, Lisa is allowed to train a calf for the country show, but has trouble persuading the five-month-old Maeve to do as she is told; while Colm’s Lambs tells of the trials and joys of the lambing season, and how an abandoned lamb was made to feel at home. These stories offer a lovely insight into a world that many children are unable to access, and I look forward to reading more of the Glenmore Valley series. Recommended age: 6-8
Kristina West, Children's Literature PhD student, University of Reading
Online review 2013

Diary of a Soccer Star, Shamini Flint, illustrated by Sally Heinrich
Diary of a Cricket God, Shamini Flint, illustrated by Sally Heinrich

Allen and Unwin ISBN 9781742378251/9781742378268 Both £5.99

As you might guess these books are written in the style of Diary of a Wimpy Kid and therefore have a ready-made audience just waiting. Nine year old Marcus Atkinson is good at Maths but not at all sporty. His father encourages him to learn to play soccer and to keep a diary to record his goals. It all starts badly but when Marcus learns to apply his mathematical knowledge to soccer he makes instant progress and helps his team win. In the sequel he tries cricket and after some disastrous events leads his team to victory due to the accidental involvement of a dog! This book ends with the recommendation to try rugby…I scent a series!
The text is printed in comic sans with plenty of space surrounding it and comic-strip style illustrations with speech bubbles every few lines so they are welcoming and attractive books, especially for able but reluctant readers. The language is quite complex and the narrative isn’t particularly sequential, as both books include the rules of their respective games, so these are a not ‘easy-reads’ and, I suspect, might easily confuse dyslexic readers. However, they are aimed at seven to eleven year old mainstream readers and I am sure that if you add them to your classroom library they will be enthusiastically received.
Debra Holmes, English teacher, Sexey’s School, Bruton, Somerset
Online review 2013

Downtown Dinosaurs: Dinosaur Scramble, Jeanne Willis; illustrated by Arthur Robins

Bloomsbury books ISBN 978408831984 £ 5.99

Popular author seems to have hit upon a winning formula here – a funny, family tale featuring dinosaurs! There is excitement in the Stigson household as Mrs Stigson is about to lay an egg. Unfortunately – the egg goes missing! Who has taken it? This engaging book is likely to be popular with boys and girls from about 6 to 9 years, of age, and proved to be a good read. Willis is an experienced writer for children and it shows; her characters are well rounded, plot believable (despite the dinosaurs!) and set within contexts familiar to the young fluent reader. Arthur Robin’s illustrations add to the sense of fun and adventure making this series a must for school libraries and classrooms. I shall certainly be stocking this series, hoping that other titles are as good as Dinosaur Scramble. Willis does not shy from using ‘real’ dinosaur names and terminology in an entertaining and very funny narrative.
Kaye Wilson, Year 6 teacher at Holy Cross Catholic Primary School, Leicester
Online review 2013

The Dragon With A Big Nose, written and illustrated by Kathy Henderson

Francis Lincoln ISBN 9781847803658 £6.99

The Dragon With A Big Nose is a collection of lively poems which are fun to read and reflect on many different aspects of life. The badly behaved dragon of the title poem is made likeable, despite his bad habits, through the delightful illustrations that accompany the poem. There are a host of poems with a variety of themes that will appeal to children. I particularly enjoyed ‘Sing a Song Of Satellites’ and ‘When It Rains’. The poems are evocative and the language is vivid and at times humorous with some surprising twists. Suitable for children aged 7 – 11.
Jo Kilpatrick, teacher, Rumney Primary School, Cardiff
Online review 2013

Dressing Up As A Robot, Rebekah Joy Shirley

Franklin Watts (www.franklinwatts.co.uk) ISBN 9781445114057 £7.99

One in a series of books providing helpful and practical information about dressing up costumes, this is a practical guide. Dressing Up As A Robot shows you how transform yourself into a high tech, high spec robot. There are instructions for how to develop your robody, with upper body strength; control panel gadgets; flashing lights for warnings and messages; a message receiving antenna; weight bearing, sturdy legs and even a metal cutting laser! The step by step instructions on every page are supported by a list of resources and numbered photographs. This book will appeal to people of any age who would like to dress up as a robot!
Jo Kilpatrick, Reception Class teacher, Rumney Primary School, Cardiff
Online review 2013

Ellie May Can Definitely Keep A Secret, Marianne Levy

Jelly Pie, Egmont ISBN 9781405266628 £5.99

From an early years’ perspective I believe that the children who would benefit from this book the most are those of the ages 6 – 8. The story is based on a young girl who is an ‘incredibly famous film star’ who happens to break a much kept secret of another star that is staying in the same hotel. It would definitely help encourage girls to participate in creative writing activities as Ellie May is certainly seen as somebody who every little girl dreams to be. Ellie May’s quirky personality shines through the story and will help children understand why it is important to be good friend and how good they could feel when they help and support those people that are special to them. If using this story as part of a topic or as literacy based book it would be beneficial to have a story that relates more to boys’ interests that is similar to the story of Ellie May as a focus also. There has been so much debate about encouraging boys and engaging them in literacy and reading that I believe that this story may not engage them as much.
Anna Clay
Online review 2013

Fly, Chick, Fly! Jean Willis Illustrated by Tony Ross

Andersen Press (www.andersenpress.co.uk) ISBN 9781849393447 £10.99

This is a beautifully illustrated book which was thoroughly enjoyed by my Year 3 class. It tells the story of an owlet that is afraid to learn to fly. She watches both her siblings depart the nest before she is brave and flies off to her own tree to start a family of her own. It could be a starter story for a number of different lessons for example PSHE, when teaching the children about trying new activities or learning new skills; or for English, to show how repetition can be used to create rhythm and patterns in a story. The author uses interesting vocabulary and devices such as alliteration and rhyme. Highly recommended.
Laura Fallowfield, key stage 2 teacher, Eaton Square School, London
Online review 2013

The Great Big Book Of Feelings, Mary Hoffman Illustrated by Ros Asquith

Frances Lincoln Children’s Books (www.franceslincoln.com) ISBN 9781847802811 £11.99

Happy, sad, excited, bored, silly, shy, confident... how do you feel? This superb book explores lots of different feelings with warmth and gentle humour. It looks at a host of different feelings and emotions one by one, with the underlying theme that talking about our feelings is a positive thing and helps us to feel better. The use of lots of different characters, doing different things, gives each feeling range and depth. The delightful illustrations and text captions ensure an upbeat sense of fun. This is a great book for supporting the Personal and Social Education curriculum and ideal to use as a basis for exploring, sharing and talking about different feelings. Suitable for reading with children aged 5 to 9.
Jo Kilpatrick, Reception Class teacher, Rumney Primary School, Cardiff
Online review 2013

Humphrey’s book of Christmas fun, Betty G. Birney

Faber and Faber ISBN 9780571282418 £4.99

This Christmas stocking-filler has puzzles and jokes, linked by messages from Humphrey the school hamster, whom some young readers will know from the books about his adventures. Unlike the story books, once the puzzles are completed this book will have done its job, perhaps keeping a child occupied in slack times over the Christmas holiday. At £4.99 it seems a tad pricey, but many of the puzzles will take some time to solve, so for some parents this could be money well spent. There is a Humphrey website at www.funwithhumphrey.com. Age-range 6-9
Online review 2013

The Iron Man, Ted Hughes, illustrated by Andrew Davidson

Faber & Faber ISBN 97805713022246 £5.99

This is a truly stunning edition of a classic tale by Ted Hughes, which has been described as ‘One of the greatest of modern fairy tales’ (Observer). Mankind is desperate to stop the dreadful destruction that the Iron Man is wreaking but it seems that he cannot be kept down. However, when a terrible monster from outer space threatens the entire planet, it is the Iron Man who thinks of a way to save the world. The stunning wood engraving illustrations compliment the text perfectly. This version of the story is beautifully set out with a child friendly yet traditional, timeless feel. Suitable for children aged 6 – 9, this is a text that could be used as a springboard for many classroom activities – shared poetry writing, drama, discussion and debate.
Jo Kilpatrick, teacher, Rumney Primary School, Cardiff
Online review 2013

Let’s Celebrate!: Festival Poems from Around The World, Debjani Chatterjee & Brian D’Arcy

Frances Lincoln Children’s books ISBN 9781847804792 £8.99

This is a pleasant collection of poems from various religious and cultural festivals from around the world. Starting in January the book works right through until December having one or two poems for every major worldwide festival including festivals from the UK. It is a delightful introduction to world poems which could be used in an RE or a Literacy lesson. This text has the potential to be a useful resource because it is a collection of world poetry in one place and it could be a time saver when you are looking for a class poem at festival time. The book is colourful, well-illustrated and has poems which can be used in a wide variety of topics from the primary school curriculum. In terms of language I would place the poetry firmly in Key Stage 2 but at £8.99 a copy this book could be useful to any teacher.
Thomas Buttross, KS2 Teacher
Online review 2013

Let’s Play! Poems About Sports and Games From Around the World, edited by Debjani Chatterjee and Brian D’Arcy Illustrated by Shirin Adl

Frances Lincoln ISBN 9781847803702 £12.99

The anthology has an attractive cover, with brightly coloured illustrations of children and adults from different cultures playing a variety of games. The endpapers are unusual collage-style silhouettes. Throughout the book the poems are enhanced by the artwork. Pupils particularly liked the double page spread on surfing, the ball-shaped ‘The Football Team’, ‘Chess Haiku’ and ‘When My Friend Anita Runs’. The authors’ note explains that they did not aim to include poems for every, or even the most important games and sports, and that they hope their selection might encourage children to make their own compilation of poems, or write their own poems on sports and games.

Poets included range from John Masefield, Sir Henry Newbolt and Robert Louis Stevenson to Grace Nichols, Bashabi Fraser and Muhammad Ali. My class enjoyed ‘A Skipping Game’ which prompted discussion, (and demonstration) of other skipping rhymes. ‘Swimming Lesson’ inspired us to write poems about our favourite hobbies. ‘Shot Put’ reminded us of the years of training and dedication needed for success. We enjoyed the challenge of the tongue-twister ‘Toboggan’ and ‘The Skater Boys’ initiated discussion on sports where participants ‘looked cool’. ‘Basketball’ was one of our favourites as we identified with the exhilaration of scoring, and we loved ‘Kite Flying’ which describes the freedom of the kite flying and the clutch of the child’s fist on the string.

Four pages at the back of the book give information about the sports and games featured. We found much of interest here including the origins of Kite Flying and the history of the Shot Put, and of Snakes and Ladders. The anthology is highly recommended for Key Stage 2 children and their teachers.
Brenda Marshall, Head of English, Port Regis, Motcombe Park, Shaftesbury
Online review 2013

Machines and Weaponry of World War I, Charlie Samuels

Wayland ISBN 9781433986048 £12.99

From bayonet to battleship, gas to grenade, tank to triplane, twenty key weapons of the war are described and set in context, each in an attractively presented double-page spread. The admirably clear explanation, suiting both the novice and the child who already feels he has some knowledge, is backed up by the sort of technical detail so many boys love, without ever becoming cramped or dull. Each spread includes two or three terrific photographs, showing the men as well as the machine or weapon. Short but fascinating eyewitness accounts add to the interest and there is a good glossary. An excellent volume for the enthusiastic young student, this will be a valuable and popular addition to the school library.
Leslie Smith, Head of History, Port Regis
Online review 2013

Mad, Bad and Just Plain Dangerous: Victorians, John Townsend

Franklin Watts ISBN 9781445121932 £5.99

I found this an enjoyable text to read as it addresses key historical facts in a fun and interesting way, In school this text became very popular during our individual reading sessions particularly (although not exclusively) amongst the boys! I too enjoyed reading about the Victorian dangers such as the train terrors, ingenious inventions and scary schools but I would suggest that this text is used for children 7 and above. The section on schools has an interesting list on classroom rules containing a few that the children would be shocked at when comparing schools today to those that have gone Tomos Buttress KS2 Teacher
Online review 2013

Mortimer Keene: Attack of the Slime, Tim Healey, illustrated by Chris Mould

Hodder Children’s Books ISBN 9780340977734 £4.99

I loved this little book. It’s one long 74 page narrative poem divided into four sections. Mortimer Keene, an eight-year-old pupil of Saint Barnabas School, is an inventor. In this book he invents some slime that invades the school. And that’s it really! However, the jaunty, rhyming four-line stanzas, one or two per page in the style of Dr Seuss, whisk the reader through the story to the cheerful ending. The illustrations are reminiscent of Ronald Searle’s St Trinian’s and the black and green colour scheme is both attractive and appropriate. There are mini-biographies at the front and an interesting glossary, brain-teasers and even a recipe for slime at the back.
This book lends itself to reading aloud (I wanted to read it aloud even though I was alone in the house) to an audience; it would be great for paired reading (alternate stanzas) or for weaker readers with a supporting adult. I can think of lots of spin-off activities, not least writing your own ‘Mortimer’ poems before reading other titles in the series.
D. J. Holmes, English teacher, Sexey’s School, Bruton, Somerset
Online review 2013

Puss Jekyll Cat Hyde, Joyce Dunbar, illustrated by Jill Barton

Francis Lincoln Books ISBN 9781847804921 £6.99

This book is a clever and poetic pondering on the dual nature of a black and white cat. A good puss or a bad cat? Jekyll or Hyde? As Puss Jekyll she purrs and curls up on the lap of her owner, a cosy, snoozy puss, so saintly and quaintly serene, she seems almost human. But as Cat Hyde, all fang and claw, eyes wide and piercing and ears pricked on the scent of any trembling, tiny creature, she is more like a sly, devil cat. Puss Jekyll Cat Hyde is delightful to read as the words are so evocative and rhythmic and the contrasts so stark. This book would be a great stimulus for discussion in school with children about how they see the domestic cat. It would also be a fantastic way to start looking at powerful word choices and the use of onomatopoeia, metaphor, analogy, assonance and alliteration. It is a book that is sure to delight cat lovers of any age but particularly suitable for the 7 – 11 age group.
Jo Kilpatrick, teacher, Rumney Primary School, Cardiff
Online review 2013

The Roman Beanfeast, Gillian Cross, illustrated by Ros Asquith

Frances Lincoln ISBN 9781847804884 £5.99

Davy desperately wants to win a prize at school for his work based on the class visit a Roman fort. Despite his best efforts Davy is thwarted at every turn by his bossy neighbour Molly who keeps stealing his ideas at the same time as laughing unkindly at his efforts. Davy is on the verge of admitting defeat when he thinks of a wonderful plan, inspired by Julian Sneezer, the Roman soldier. The tension rises as Davey knows that he must keep his idea away from Molly. The Roman Beanfeast is an entertaining tale, interwoven with factual information about the Romans. There are also plentiful opportunities for discussions about appropriate behaviour in competitive situations. This story would make a great read alongside any study of The Romans. Suitable for ages 7 – 9.
Jo Kilpatrick, teacher, Rumney Primary School, Cardiff
Online review 2013

Sea Quest 1 Cephalox the Cyber Squid, Adam Blade

Orchard Books ISBN 9781408318485 £4.99

Sea Quest 1 Cephalox the Cyber Squid is a formulaic book that takes up where the phenomenally successful Beast Quest series left off. Max lives in a futuristic city in an ocean world with a lost kingdom hidden beneath the waves. Max’s underwater adventure begins when his father is kidnapped by the evil Professor using the monstrous Cephalox robobeast. To rescue his father he must find and collect 4 parts of an ancient skull. Max and his friend Lia from the lost civilisation, leave the known world to fulfil their quest in the vast ocean equipped with a map, super technological gadgets and a loveable dogbot. Short punchy chapters, sharp descriptions, fascinating machines and terrifying aquatic monsters propel the young reader from one dangerous situation to the next.

The plot is predictable, the dialogue wooden and the language sometimes as unambitious as a hamburger. That said, the book has enough ideas, pace and elegance in the genuinely exciting action scenes for children to build their own scenery, animate the monsters and vicariously play out the adventure in their own imagination. Sea Quest 1 provides instant gratification and fast success for readers who can move quickly through the series collecting the trading cards and stickers tucked inside the back cover.

Adam Blade knows what young readers enjoy and Sea Quest is the children’s literature equivalent of healthy fast food. You may want children to appreciate richer fare as well, but at least they are enjoying the story and developing the valuable habit of reading. Suitable for key stage 2.
Jonathan Rooke, Senior Lecturer, University of Winchester
Online review 2013

Secret Kingdom – Snow Bear Sanctuary, Rosie Banks

Orchard Books ISBN 9781408323403 £4.99

This book has proved that there is a consistent approach to the Secret Kingdom Series as the character profiles are introduced in each book with the same characters appearing throughout the series also. This allows children to build such an imaginative bank of character profiles, fantastic vocabulary and lots of story ideas that could be used within their work. In turn these ideas could possibly affect each aspect of Literacy, Language and Communication within the Foundation Phase/Stage settings and also the literacy skills that are developed in KS2 as this book is suitable for those between the ages 7-9. This book, in particular, opens up opportunity for cross-curricular activities, specifically map work in geography and the locations and habitats of different animals, which is a popular science topic throughout KS2. The girls in the story have a special job. They are asked to look after snow bears and have to solve a range of problems. There is a clear link to the skills relating to the care of animals within Foundation Phase/stage settings. I am sure that every child that has the opportunity to come in contact with these magical stories will thoroughly enjoy them and use the ideas gathered from them in their day to day school activities.
Anna Clay
Online review 2013

Secret Kingdom – Wildflower Wood, Rosie Banks

Orchard Books ISBN 9781408323380 £4.99

From an educational point of view I believe that this magical story is beneficial to those of the ages 7 – 9 years. This book would fit easily into topics such as Once Upon a Time and Fairytales. It provides opportunities for children to explore a variety of genres such as letter writing, diary entries, wanted posters and, of course, magical story writing. Working within a boy-orientated classroom I am always conscious of the gender balance of resources I choose in order to maintain interest, enthusiasm and excitement throughout the activities and topics. With characters such as elves and giants I believe that every child would thoroughly enjoy such a beautiful book.
Anna Clay, Primary School Teacher
Online review 2013

 

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