Ages 7-9 [Lower Key Stage 2] 2019

reviews added August 2019

Bloom by Nicola Skinner   Illustrated by Flavia Sorrentino Harper Collins ( ISBN 9780008297381   £12.99

This is the debut novel by author Nicola Skinner and is an absolute delight. Blossoming with character and humour, this is a story about a girl called Sorrel and her discovery of a packet of ‘surprising seeds’ and the fantastical notion of flora bursting forth from heads. It is packed full of vivid and colourful floral descriptions, and the gorgeous illustrations that Sorrentino has weaved throughout really help make this book feel extra special. I loved the imaginative play on words with so many of the names featured in the book (‘Sorrel’, ‘Florence’, ‘Grittysnit’ and Mossheart’), as well as the links between the appearance of nature and the mood of the characters and places within. Children will love the theme that runs alongside the environmental message that ‘wonderful things happen when you break the rules’. The heroine, Sorrel, and her best friend, Neena, make wonderful protagonists and are very likeable from the start. As well as being hugely enjoyable, this could be a great shared story in KS2 to support topics looking at environmental or green issues.  It would also provide a great stimulus for a discussion on climate change and youth activists.

Laura Davies

Atlas of Adventures: Wonders of the World by Ben Handicott Illustrated by Lucy Letherland  Wide Eyed Editions ISBN: 9781786032171  £20.00

This is an awe-inspiring book. We are taken on a trip round the world and visit some of the most amazing places. We witness the swirling Northern Lights of the Aurora Borealis, step into a fairy tale at Neuschwanstein Castle, keep our cool in the hottest place on earth, Death Valley, stand on top of the world up Mount Everest, trek the Great Wall of China, strain our necks looking up at The Burj Khalifa, see 2,500 animal species at Pantanal, see inside an ancient supervolcano - the Ngorongoro Crater and take a deep breath and swim the Blue Hole. This large book is a visual treat with colourful illustrations, paragraphs of information and fun facts. I like the "Can you find?" section at the end of the book that encourages readers to find specific pictures. The atlas can be read from cover to cover or dipped into. This tour around the globe celebrates diversity, inspires travel, research, an interest in people, animals, cultural traditions and natural wonders and fosters a sense of adventure. Highly recommended for children age 7+

Brenda Marshall


Lavinia and the Magic Ring. by Bianca Pitzorno. Translated by Laura Watkinson. Illustrated by Quentin Blake Catnip Publishing.  ISBN 9781910611180   £5.99

This massively successfully story of Lavinia and Her Magic Ring has been a hit around the world and kept in print since the 70s, but it is the first time it has been available translated into English. The author has been likened to an Italian Roald Dahl and, when accompanied by illustrations by Quentin Blake, children will make the comparison. Suitable for independent readers from the age of 7 the 100-page, easy read story, draws upon influences from fairy tales, Tolkien and king woven into a unique tale centring around children’s love of the funny and rude and in this case poo. Alongside the gross piles and piles of hot steaming, trickling, sticking poo, the author deals lightly with social issues of homelessness and orphans, selfishness and greed, friendship and threat. Its own blurb describes it as “a hilarious modern fairy tale but certainly not for the squeamish!” I think children of both genders will love it, just as an easy to read, silly, turn your stomach, reading for pleasure, storybook.

Jane Macleod


Perfectly Peculiar Plants  by Chris Thorogood Illustrated by Catell Ronca W & P ISBN 9781786032850 £12.99

A fabulous book. We are invited to walk through the earth’s most peculiar plants. Chris Thorogood has an encyclopaedic knowledge and provides interesting information in an accessible way. The artwork is vibrant and colourful. A vast range of plants from across the globe is included from the giant waterlily and the tree shrew toilet pitcher to the squirting cucumber and the resurrection plant. There are also sections on how plants get energy, how animals and plants live side by side, can plants talk, can plants move, and how to protect plants and their habitats. A glorious celebration of the plant world, the book informs, intrigues and inspires us. Perfect for children aged 7 and over.

Brenda Marshall

The Clue is in the Pooh and other stuff too by Andy Seed Illustrated by Claire Almon QED ISBN 9781784935733  £12.99

I like the mix of information and fun in this book. We are encouraged to be wildlife detectives and find clues, and learn about creatures from what they leave behind. There are sections on poo, faeces and dung, footprints and tracks, what lives where, animal lunch, skin, eggs and shells and creatures that are dangerous to track, such as Komodo dragons, tigers and wolves. The information is presented in a variety of ways that will appeal to children such as rules, bullet points, speech bubbles, captions and quizzes. Andy Seed is a brilliant writer and, in addition to the fascinating facts, there is plenty of wordplay and humour that makes learning easy and memorable. Claire Almon’s attractive watercolour illustrations enhance the text. The book is a superb introduction to wildlife that will help children to observe, understand and appreciate the natural world. It would be an excellent addition to a KS2 class or school library.

Brenda Marshall


There’s room for everyone written and illustrated by Anahita Teymorian. Tiny Owl ISBN 9781910328361 £12.99

This is a superb book with a very straightforward but profound message, which is ‘there is room in the world for everyone’.  The text is simple with only about twenty words on each double page spread but those words give us a thought provoking message about the way we should be thinking about our world and the way we all share it.  Given the issues that we are facing in the world, with waves of immigrants and refugees wanting to move elsewhere, it is a message that we would do well to take notice of.

The illustrations are a mix of naivety and sophistication, with stylised interpretations of people and creatures.  The colour palette is quite dark and subdued but the use of lighter shades for background or for emphasis keeps it from feeling too depressing.  The author/illustrator lives in Tehran and is well known internationally, although her work is less known in the UK; looking online, it would appear that only two other books by her are available in this country but I would like to see more in the future.  It is a story that will lead to a huge amount of discussion in the classroom and links in to so many themes, but especially empathy, refugees, family and war.

Margaret Pemberton


Treasure Hunt House by Kate Davies Illustrated by Becca Stadtlander. Lincoln ISBN 9781847809575 £14.99

This is a sumptuous picture book for older readers.  It takes the form of a treasure hunt and centres around two children when they go to visit their great-aunt Martha for a holiday.  She is not there, but her housekeeper, Jo, tells them about what has been planned.  The idea is that they search the house for clues and eventually they will find the ‘treasure’.  We then follow the children on their journey of discovery with each double page covering the contents of a room.  Every room has a clue as to where you can find the next clue, so the children have to really look carefully at all the objects which have a ‘lift-the-flap’ element.

The illustrations are definitely the star in this book.  They are meant to represent a large and old fashioned house, with a very American feel; think of something from the Victorian gothic style.  The rooms are full of fascinating objects and the reader can spend hours poring over the images.  You could almost say that the house is a museum in its own right and I know that it is the sort of place that invites us to be curious.  Physically this is a very strong and well-constructed book and will survive heavy usage in the classroom, but, above all, it is a fascinating starting place to find out about so many fantastic objects and places. Definitely a book that I can keep coming back to. It is wonderful to just browse all the amazing images.

Margaret Pemberton

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