Ages 7-9 [Lower Key Stage 2] 2020

reviews added September 2020

Prehistoric Pets by Dr Dean Lomax Illustrated by Mike Love Templar Press ISBN 9781787415331 £14.99

This is such an exciting book. We meet current pets - guinea pig, budgerigar, corn snake, cat, goldfish, dog and horse. Dr Dean Lomax is a palaeontologist and Ichthyosaur expert who traces back each pet’s family tree using fossil clues so we see what the pet’s great, great, great, great, GREAT grandparents looked like. There is enticing art work, information presented in accessible chunks, in a style that is user-friendly.  Stunning pop-ups fire the imagination and give life to the Josephoartigasia, Velociraptor, Titanoboa, Smilodon, Leedsichthys, Epicyon, and Sifrhippus. The presentation is excellent with friendly fonts, some pages that look like scrap books, Fossil Files, Did you know? sections, captions and questions that keep the reader engaged. A captivating introduction to evolution, palaeontology and prehistoric animals. Highly recommended for schools and libraries, it would make an excellent present for children aged 7+

Brenda Marshall

The Silver Pony by Holly Webb Illustrated by James Brown Little Tiger ISBN 9781788951937 £5.99

A pony story with a difference. Not only is Daisy struggling with her emotions because her best friend Mara is in hospital with cancer, but she is also being teased and bullied at school by Jack Wilson. The only thing that seems to be able to lighten her life is coming across a group of three free-roaming New Forest ponies while on her dog walks. She takes photos to send to Mara to cheer up her pony-loving friend, but then discovers the ponies belong to Jack Wilson’s dad when she sees her enemy feeding them. She is brave enough to stand up to him and ultimately they, the ponies and a healthier Mara, become friends. The story shows the importance of human-animal relationships and also demonstrates, through Daisy’s actions, what true friendship can look like. A satisfying read-alone book for confident young readers aged 7-9.

Pam Dowson


Metropolis written and illustrated by Benoit Tardiff ISBN: 9781787418547 Big Picture Press an imprint of Bonnier Books UK £ 12.99

This is a stunning visual journey around 32 of the World's cities. Very colourful double postcard- like pages allow the reader to discover key landmarks, the architecture and the cultural treasures of 32 cities. The spreads are full of effective images that show what makes up each city and allow the reader to discover the physical nature of the places through iconic buildings but also delve into food, culture, sport and tradition.

The author lives in Montreal so it is not surprising that Montreal is the first double page spread but he then picks out cities in North America, Central and South America, Europe, Africa, Asia and Australasia. This is a picture book with labels for children and their parents of all ages that has simple images. Being myself an explorer who has travelled for the past 50 years I found that this children's book both reminded me of cities I have visited but also inspired me to visit others in the future. It is a mixture of cultural and urban geography with a very helpful global location map on both the front and back inside covers. This is a book for all ages, either to peruse at leisure or as part of a geography curriculum. It should be available in schools for all KS1 and KS2 pupils and in homes and libraries for children. However I agree that, as it says on the back of the book, it is a book for travel enthusiasts of all ages.

Paul Baker

Green Planet Life in our Woods and Forests by Moira Butterfield. Illustrated by Jonathan Woodward Little Tiger Press ISBN 978-1-912756-02-5 £12.99

This book is one of ‘Colours of the World’ series which provides a wonderful introduction to the natural world for children. Wonderfully illustrated, the book explores the forests and animals around the globe and features the smallest trees to the largest jungles, and the tiniest beetles to the biggest bears. The double page spreads clearly explain through text and illustrations the importance of trees and inform the reader about living trees of varying sizes that need food to stay healthy while through their leaves they stay alive and provide food and homes for other creatures. These include the forests in cold climates as well as the damp, hot sticky tropical forests.

The wonderful array of creatures/animals that live in forests found in different climatic zones are covered by a series of double page spreads. The range includes the massive moose and grizzly bear, and the wood frog and baby bears in the forests of snow. There are sections on the importance of minibeasts in coniferous forests and the different types of animals in rainforests. Double page spreads on monkeys and deadly frogs, super strong beetles and butterflies highlight the importance of tropical forests. The two spreads on temperate forests and the variety of creatures living in these forests, allow the young reader to complete a worldwide study of the variety of woods and forests found in different global climatic areas. The last two spreads then look at people's homes in the forests, and why wood is important to people. A brilliant book that should be in every primary school library/classroom and at both upper KS 1 and KS2. A great resource to enable children to appreciate the importance of forests and wood.

Paul Baker

Agent Zaiba Investigates: the Missing Diamonds by Annabelle Sami    Illustrated by Daniela Sosa  Stripes Publishing       ISBN: 9781788952064   £6.99

Agent Zaiba is an exciting detective mystery. Zaiba attends her cousin’s Mehndi party, a pre-wedding celebration in Hindu and Sikh culture when the bride has the red-orange mehndi "stain" applied to her palms, back of hands, and feet. There is a VIP staying in the hotel and Zaiba is determined to find out who it is. The celebrity’s precious dog disappears together with its priceless diamond collar, and Zaiba, her brother Ali and Poppy, her best friend, set out to solve the mystery. There are plenty of suspects, twists, turns, puzzles, mistakes and red herrings en route. I really enjoyed the Agatha Christie style final scene where the culprit is eventually unmasked. The diverse characters are well-drawn. Delightful illustrations and decorations break up the text. The book ends with detective tips and a quiz. Highly recommended as a good read for 7-9 year olds who like sleuthing. There are also opportunities to learn about elements of Pakistani culture, and to consider good detective work with emphasis on evidence and motives.

Brenda Marshall


Baby Koala Rescue by Tilda Kelly Orchard ISBN 9781408363348 £5.99

Ruby likes peace, familiarity and routine. She finds it difficult at the end of the school day when children jostle in the corridor. Ruby loves maths, animals and drawing. She has a tendency to say exactly what she thinks which can make relationships awkward. Her favourite place in the world is Green Gates Wildlife Sanctuary. She enjoys the koalas in the sanctuary who have been saved from the bushfires, and is thrilled when her family agrees to foster a baby koala at home. Ruby names the koala Pablo and becomes its best friend. She makes a new friend, Kirra. Soon Pablo is sufficiently recovered to return to the sanctuary  This helps Ruby to cope with changes in her own life such as a new baby brother, and moving on to her own new school. A charming story for children aged 7+ that offers much to think about and discuss such as how an autistic child feels, how to prepare for and overcome challenges and the plight of koalas in bushfires. Highly recommended.

Brenda Marshall


My Other Life by Polly Ho Yen Bloomsbury Readers Bloomsbury Education   £6.99

This is an interesting story about a young girl, Mae, who has asthma.  She often has to use her inhaler and sometimes has to go to hospital. During one hospital visit she sees a tear in the universe before her. Eventually it disappears but it unsettles her and appears again. Eventually Mae is drawn into a parallel universe where she doesn’t have asthma, but other people and relationships are not as she had expected.  This is a thought-provoking, powerful short story that offers opportunities to consider living with asthma, friendship, attitudes to an elderly relation, empathy, be careful what you wish for and the grass is always greener on the other side.

The book works as a stand-alone, but it is a Brown Book Band Bloomsbury Reader, one of an impressive series of readers for children aged 6-11. The stories are book banded and are written by a range of award-winning authors such as Geraldine McCaughrean, Joan Aiken, Andrew Fusek Peters and Narinder Dhami. There is a variety of texts including stories, short stories such as Anansi, a retelling of Macbeth, the story of Finn McCool and the adventures of Thomas-Alexandre Dumas. Each book contains suggested activities and there are online guided reading notes written by the Centre For Literacy in Primary Education Highly recommended for home and school use.

Brenda Marshall


In Great Numbers: How Numbers Shape the World We Live in by Isabel Thomas, Robert Klanten, Maria-Elisabeth Niebus, and Raphael Honigstein Illustrated by Daniela Olejniková Little Gestalten ISBN 9783899558203 £16.95

This book introduces the fascinating world of numbers in ways that are accessible and interesting to children aged 7-9. The pages are effectively designed with a good balance of information and attractive illustrations. We learn about the universal language of numbers, and why even animals can count. We see how people all round the world have used numbers and are shown different ways of measuring time, distance, weight and money over the centuries. The reader is introduced to symbols from the Sumerians, Babylonians, the ancient Chinese and the ancient Romans. We are taught a mathematical game involving Kaprekar’s constant, learn about the language of computing and meet other important mathematicians such as Euclid, Archimedes, Hypatia of Alexandria, Brahmagupta, Alan Turing and Ada Lovelace. We are shown patterns, sequences and code crackers how men have used numbers to shape their world. At the end of the book there is a reminder that, although mathematical understanding has grown over the centuries, there are still “impossible” problems to solve and secrets of the universe to be discovered. The book closes with the question “What will you discover?” An inspirational book that is highly recommended for schools, libraries and homes.

Brenda Marshall


Notes in Class: Book 1 (Scribble Witch) written and illustrated by Inky Willis Hodder ISBN 9781444951653 £6.99

Molly’s best friend Chloe is moving to a new school. Molly is upset and has the worst Wednesday ever. . . . until Notes pops up. Notes is a tiny paper witch who lives in a pe npot and is visible only to Molly. Notes’ secret scribbles are funny, and sometimes her behaviour gets Molly into trouble with Mr Stilton. The style is a mixture of text, notes and doodles, a bit like Wimpy Kid and Tom Gates. Many aspects of the book appeal to children such as the spelling mistakes, the importance of pencil toppers, the top ten lunch disasters and the top ten pencil cases. There is plenty of humour, such as when we see what Molly would really like to say to her teacher,, but doesn’t. .The book is great fun to read, and there is a message about coping with school and difficult times. Ideal for children aged 7-9. I look forward to the next book in the series.

Brenda Marshall


On Wings of Words by Jennifer Berne Illustrated by Becca Stadtlander Chronicle Kids ISBN 9781452142975      £13.99

Subtitled ‘The Extraordinary Life of Emily Dickinson’, this is certainly an extraordinary book.  We are taken on a journey through the poet’s life in 1800s America where she is born with a love of nature and soon develops a love of books. As she grows, she becomes aware of shadows and sorrows in the world to which she seeks answers, but nothing satisfies her. So she begins to put her faith in what she can see and understand. In the name of the Bee – And of the Butterfly – and of the Breeze – Amen! Words – her own words – become her solace, her escape, her reason for being.  Amazingly, her family knew nothing of her prodigious poetic outpouring until her works were discovered by her sister after her death.  Jennifer Berne’s lyrical language is appropriate to her subject and we are treated to snatches of Dickinson’s own words dotted throughout the text.  Berne helps us to see the poet beyond the poems but in an afterword also gives us a little insight into reading them. She also encourages us to try writing our own poetry as a way to become a better poetry reader.  Becca Stadtlander’s illustrations are simply stunning. Faithful to the facts of Emily’s life, they also echo elements of her poetry in a most imaginative way.   This would be a good introduction to Dickinson’s poetry but also to the idea of what a poet is and what inspires them.

Pam Dowson


The Magic of Mums by Justin Coe  Illustrated by Steve Wells  Otter-Barry ISBN 9781910959640   £6.99

Not all mums are the same and not all mums are humans.  This collection of poems has an A to Z of a wide variety of them from Action Mum to Zzzz Mum.  You will find mums you recognise (I’m afraid I’m the ‘Anxious Mum’! – ‘Don’t forget your toothbrush, darling, take these crisps, in case you’re starving...’). Do you know a ‘Proud Mum’, a ‘No-No Mum’ or ‘Stunt Mother’?  There’s a nice balance of rhyming and non-rhyming verses, a good serving of humour, a pinch of poignancy and much food for thought.  We may feel ashamed of ourselves for what we have done to our planet when we read ‘Mother Earth’. ‘Dad-Mum’ and ‘Tree Mum’ remind us that not everyone is lucky enough to have a mother, whereas ‘Two Mums’ acknowledges that some children have more than one. Then there’s an ‘Elephant Mother’, a bee mother and Mother Tongue. More than we realised, yes?  The author is a performance poet. You can find out more at

Pam Dowson


Thimble Wonga Bonkers by Jon Blake Illustrated by Martin Chatterton Dragonfly – Firefly Press. ISBN 9781913102104  £5.99

An easy to read, fast paced story for 6-9s.This is the third in a series of books about a boy called Jams and his mischievous monkey called Thimble. It stands alone in its own right but I’m sure once read children will want to read the other two books to find out what other trouble Thimble gets into. What child wouldn’t love a wild weekend with mum away, a crazy monkey and a hapless, pathetic Dad? So if you can’t have one of your own the next best thing is reading about it. The outline of the story is simple - with Mum away Dad has only the thirty pounds Mum gives him to feed themselves for the week. Thimble, as only a monkey could, blows the whole lot on bananas and the rest of the story sees Dad trying to recoup the money but getting into trouble with the police and getting deeper and deeper into debt as the story unfolds. There are lots of laughs with monkey hijinks and a subtle and thoughtful insight into living with having ‘wonky legs’.

Jane Macleod


Beast Quest: New Blood by Adam Blade  Hachette Books   ISBN 9781408357859  £5.99

For those children who are familiar with the juggernaut that is the ‘Beast Quest’ set of series, this book will need no introduction, except to say that this is the new series: ‘New Blood’. However, for those of you who are less familiar with the idea, (even though there are over 100 books, various series and computer games), the heroes in the stories battle with scary mythical based beasts to lead good to the path of victory over evil. The same happens in this story, but with three new heroes – Charlie, Amy and Sam. The three characters have clearly chiselled out forms: Sam is sporty, brave but over-adventurous; Amy is a deep thinker, aggressive but quiet; and Charlie is ultra-clever, geeky but a worrier. The fact that Sam has a pet dragon could lead to a vast array of Design and Technology lessons – it is always a favourite with classes I have taught, including making amazing dragon’s eyes! The main story here revolves around the children becoming guardians who are charged with protecting a magical beast’s egg from the Malvel, an evil Dark Wizard. With a myriad of short punchy sentences, exclamation marks aplenty and a proliferation of italics and capitalised verbs, the action is never far away and kicks this story off in style. Thereafter, action follows action followed with yet more action. If you are trying to teach a class of children this style of writing, there is no better place to look. It is also a great introduction to the fantasy genre of writing, which, in the future, could lead on to a love of such great books as Lord of the Rings! There are some great illustrations throughout the book, which will help children in Year 3 upwards with visualising some of the main characters.

Jamie Marshall


Milton the Megastar by Emma Read Illustrated by Alex G.  Griffiths and Lisa Reed Chicken House Books (   ISBN 9781912626069     £6.99

This is an exciting read with plenty of action and humour.  Milton continues his #notscaredofspiders campaign started in his previous book.  Struggling with the pressures of his new found fame, Milton decides to take a break in Hawaii and find his father.  En route he and his friends encounter a volcano, Mount Kilauea, and environmental damage created by Bradley O’Hair.  He also meets Hawaiian happy-face spiders and money spiders.  The story itself is fast-paced.  Weaved into it are some important themes.  Milton manages to convert Bradley O’Hair into a philanthropist and an environmental sponsor.  Children of 7 and over will enjoy this terrific read that touches on thought-provoking issues.

Brenda Marshall

Bombs and Blackberries: A World War Two Play by Julia Donaldson, illustrated by Thomas Docherty Hodder Children’s Books ISBN 9781444938906 £5.99

This is the hard-pressed teacher’s answer to prayer, especially but not essentially if they are still including a study of WW2 in their history curriculum: a play about the evacuation, the Manchester blitz and its effects on the lives of all those caught up in any or all of it. Written by Julia Donaldson, it has all the necessary ingredients: lots of parts, short lines that are more likely to be memorised and suggestions for staging and costumes. Whilst the endpoint might be a production – there are rich seams to be mined in terms of developing children’s understanding of a major event in our history and the social mores of the time, together with developing an understanding of the structure of a play and all the skills necessary for a public performance. Thomas Docherty’s illustrations enhance the text and provide a very useful set of reference points for those pupils tasked with staging and costume production. One minor quibble: the introduction suggests that this can be staged, read in class or at home. Why read a play at home alone?

Elizabeth Broad


Jack’s Secret Summer by Jack Ryder Illustrated by Alice McKinley  Hodder ISBN:9781444952971 £6.99

At the start of the summer holidays, Jack feels depressed and lonely. An only child, he often has to prepare food for his Dad who works long hours at the animal home. Luckily new neighbours recently moved in and the tearaway brothers Bruno and Rocco are more than happy to invite Jack to play with them. They decide to explore the abandoned house in its overgrown garden across the alley and get swept up in an unexpected magical adventure. There is enchanted ivy, a forgetful girl, Blossom, who needs to find her father, gobstoppers with extraordinary powers and a talking elephant. Time has shifted in some way, because Blossom was Jack’s mum’s name when she was little...

This debut novel is fun, pacy with lively dialogue and an unusual storyline. The reader warms to the main characters, whilst those in support are somewhat exaggerated to heighten the humour. The black and white intermittent illustrations, with their cartoon feel, capture the tone perfectly. The final cliff-hanger means readers will need to wait for the next book for any kind of resolution though, which might be a frustration for some. Personally I found it all just a little contrived, but I’m sure Y3/4 would enjoy it as a class reader or in groups.

Sue Barrett


Midge and Mo by Lara Williamson Illustrated by Becky Cameron  Little Tiger  ISBN 9781788951111 £7.99

In this satisfyingly chunky book for newly independent readers we meet Midge, unhappy after his parents split up and having to move to a new school. Sunny Mo is given the job of befriending him but no matter how she tries nothing works. Then Mo’s teacher reminds her that she too was unhappy when she started school. Mo enlists the help of her parents to make a glitter dome for Midge, which does the trick, along with an explanation that it’s OK to feel sad and that the sun will come out again one day. This could be a reassuring story for anxious children particularly those new to a school or whose family has been disrupted. The pastel illustrations provide a friendly accompaniment to a story about deep feelings and empathy.

Brenda Marshall


Oceans and Seas by Miranda Baker (Ultimate Earth) Illustrated by Gareth Lucas Little Tiger Press Ltd. ISBN: 978-1-912756-44-5 £9.99

As it states on the back cover " With Giant Action Flaps and Mind Blowing Facts " this board book is packed with the most incredible creatures in the sea.

This is a really good educational book for children as an introduction to a vast array of sea creatures. The Giant Action Flaps give a sense of excitement as children will find out what lies under them. Great illustrations provide a valuable record to support the clear text, full of information about the Terrors of the Sea, the Giants of the Deep, Disguise and Display, Speedy Swimmers, Weird and Wonderful creatures and, finally, Oceans in Danger. There is plenty of important factual information which not only celebrates the most incredible creatures in the sea but also will make every child who reads consider why seas and oceans, that cover three quarters of the earth, need looking after and conserving.

This is a good reference book which should be in school libraries as well as on children's bookcases. I would recommend it to the 6 to 11 year old readers but younger children may find it a good book for parents or teachers to read to them .Even KS3 children may find it useful to dip into as a reference book. Once you have read the book you never think about the blue part of our planet in the same way again.

Paul Baker


Let’s Play Outdoors! Exploring nature for children by Catherine Ard. Illustrated by Carla McRae Little Gestalten ISBN9783899558425 £12.95

This book is perfect for lockdown! It is full of inspiring and thought-provoking messages in a child-friendly format, incorporating vibrant pictures and simple instructions. I really enjoy the way the activities are interspersed with key messages about watching out for our destructive footprints and always taking care to put wildlife’s welfare before our curiosity. It is cleverly aimed at encouraging children into the outdoors, while also appealing to educators with its reference to aspects of children’s learning objectives cleverly incorporated. For example, the reference to using our senses when becoming ‘Nature Detectives’ could be used in any number of ways in the outdoors but also as a follow up in the classroom too. This book could be used by children aged 7 + as an independent tool but seems also to be a great reference for all the family or class. I will certainly be using it this summer.

Charlotte Townsend


Adventure Duck vs the Armadillo Army by Steve Cole Illustrated by Aleksei Bitskoff Orchard Books ISBN 978140835 6852 £5.99

A meteorite strike causes strange mutations in the animal world creating super-powered creatures; some good and some evil. In Mexico Power Pug is busy seeking world domination, using his mind controlling powers to destroy the rainforest and all chocolate factories with the help of an army of armadillos. His aim is to become ‘master of all chocolate and master of the world.’ Luckily there are several other super powered creatures to thwart his plans. Unlikely heroes Adventure Duck, Neon Zebra and Senorita Spitfire team up and pool their resources, eventually overcoming the armadillo threat, dispensing with the evil pug and restoring the rainforest so its terrified inhabitants can return. This is a lively, zany, fast paced adventure story. With lots of humour in the word play and illustrations and a comic style approach, this book is likely to prove popular as an independent read in years 3 or 4. Children who enjoy Adventure Duck’s first exploits can look forward to more in the series.

Sue McGonigle


Level Up! Block and Roll by Tim Nicoll Illustrated by Anjan Sarkar Little Tiger Press ISBN 9781788950756 £5.99

A perfect companion for enthusiastic gamers and non-gamers alike, this fun and fast-paced adventure follows friends Flo and Max as they attempt to escape from the video game in which they have become trapped. With the popularity of world building games such as Minecraft, this is set to be a huge hit with young readers. With fun ‘cubic’ illustrations which echo and capture the mood of the games in which the story is set, and accessible text, this is the perfect book to encourage some offline activity that cleverly replicated the enjoyment of the genre. A fantastic cliffhanger ending will leave readers enthralled and keen to get ready for the next level!

Laura Davies


A Cat called Trim by Corinne Fenton Illustrated by Craig Smith Allen & Unwin​ ISBN​9781911631392​  £10.99

This is a delightful picture book that combines the story of an intrepid cat with the true life story of the explorer Matthew Flinders; who was the second circumnavigator of what was to become Australia and wrote the work “Australia or Terra Australis”. Flinders wrote about his cat whilst being held by the French and this led to Trim becoming part of the legend. This was a cat that appeared to love life on the ocean waves and stayed with his master for many years, only to suddenly disappear whilst Flinders was imprisoned; however the reason is left to our imagination. The author has blended historical fact with an adventure story that will have children enthralled and laughing at the antics of Trim. The illustrator has provided a very funny juxtaposition of pictures with the text; so that we appreciate that what we are being told might be at slight variance with the reality. The illustrations are beautifully drawn and full of historical accuracy; stylistically they remind me of pictures by Victor Ambrus, whose work I admire greatly. This makes for a great story to use when studying topics such as Australia and exploration, but it also works as a good adventure story to read to young children aged 5-8 which teaches them about how animals and humans work together.

Margaret Pemberton


Felix After The Rain by Dunja Jogan Translated by Olivia Hellewell Tiny Owl ISBN 9781910328453 £7.99

This is a book suitable for discussions around emotional literacy. It deals with a young lad who drags around a heavy suitcase, a metaphor for the burden of the various difficulties he has faced during his young life. I like the metaphor and I think a worried child could understand that that’s what worries feel like: they are always with you, they are dragging you down, they are literally a weight on your shoulders. The part of the story that I feel is less effective is when Felix’s troubles fly out of the suitcase in a tumultuous swirling storm and then he “feels better, is happy, has a heart full of happiness and feels as light as a balloon.” I feel that, to be of use to a young reader dealing with issues, the metaphor of opening up needs to be explored explicitly, and with skill and expertise. The expectation that if you open up you will immediately be “without a care in the world” is naïve, but it’s a starting point. I would recommend this book for use with children from 6+ as a tool to support emotional literacy.

Jane Macleod


Uncle Gobb and the Plot Plot by Michael Rosen Illustrated by Neal Layton Bloomsbury ISBN: 9781408873953. £6.99

This third book in this popular series sees the welcome return of Malcolm, his friend Crackersnacker the genies and the weasels in a new battle against Uncle Gobb and his relentless pursuit of fact-driven education and ‘rich knowledge’. Dad is over temporarily from America with Lizard, half sister to Malcolm. She, along with cousin Wenda, is a clever foil to Uncle Gobb and his nasty genie and enable Malcolm to feel better about situations which often worry him. Clever plotting over the disputed plot of land sees Uncle Gobb finally defeated and then rather diminished by his genie. Luckily, Malcolm has a kind heart and gathers him back into the family. This anarchic series with its comic characters, word-play, tangential asides, running jokes and a wonderfully silly appendix, provides a very appealing bridge from picture books and reading schemes into chapter books - especially for reluctant readers. Layton’s hilarious cartoon- style illustrations, the font changes and speech bubbles all help to make the pages appealing and easy to navigate. Warmth, the value of family love and themes of loyalty and friendship underpin the story, which along with a slightly vulnerable hero add to the non-threatening aspect of the book. Perhaps now, though, Mr Rosen could use his prodigious talent to write something new and slightly more challenging to take these readers to the next stage rather than offer more of the same, however successful the formula.

Sue Barrett


Toto the Ninja Cat and the Superstar Catastrophe by Dermot O’Leary illustrated by Nick East Hodder Children’s books ISBN 9781444952063 £6.99

Toto the ninja crime busting cat is off on a well-earned holiday to a music festival. Far from restful however, she soon finds herself embroiled in a quest to prevent her nemesis Archduke Ferdicat hypnotising the crowd for his own wicked ends. Luckily Toto’s skills and her trusty helpers mean she is eventually able to save the day. This is a fast paced, lively adventure story. There is lots of humour, in particular word play; the festival, for example is called ‘Catstonbury.’ The black and white illustrations are excellent and really enhance the narrative, developing this highly inventive story world and the characters too. Capitals and bold print leap from every page – sometimes for no apparent reason, the story is engaging enough without this distraction. Inspired by the author’s own real-life rescue cats, this book is the third Toto adventure by the same author illustrator team. Independent readers aged 7-9 who enjoyed reading Toto’s previous adventures will find this a welcome next instalment.

Sue McGonigle


The Last Human by Lee Bacon Illustrated by George Ermos Piccadilly Press ISBN 9781848128248 £6.99

I really loved this book, and think it will appeal to a wide age-range. It has some challenging vocabulary to stretch the more able reader, but is also written in a very fun and accessible way with short chapters and a playfulness with imagery and text. It is a really original concept, written from the viewpoint of our chief protagonist the twelve-year-old robot XR_935. It would be a wonderful book to read alongside any topics which look at the environment or technology as it is the perfect stimulus for some challenging philosophical questions. The book introduces us to a world in which humans are no longer present, and through the narration of our diligent, curious robot it raises questions about environmental destruction, consumerism and division. Despite the weight of these topics, it is also an incredibly uplifting story and, by the end, we have persuasive arguments in favour of human’s interaction with the world. It would be a great prompt for a class debate to develop oral skills, as well as just a really interesting read to reflect on during any circle time. A great addition to any school library. Age range 7 - 11

Laura Davies


Skeleton Keys: The Haunting of Luna Moon by Guy Bass Illustrated by Pete Williamson Stripes, ISBN: 9781788951043 £6.99

This is the second book in the Skeleton Keys series. Skeleton Keys is a talking skeleton who has keys instead of fingers that can open doors to secret worlds. Luna mourns the death of her grandfather, Old Man Moon. The rest of the family are delighted that he has gone. Then there is a strange occurrence. Aunt Summer vanishes and reappears as a painting in the Horridor.. What is going on? Is Old Man Moon haunting them from beyond the grave, or is it the work of “unimaginaries”, imaginary friends who have become real. Skeleton Keys is determined to solve the mystery. This is an exciting, strange, Gothic story with twists, humour, magic, “fantabulant questions and fantabulant answers”. The book itself is like an ancient volume with blackened page edges and fabulous illustration reminiscent Gorey. As Skeleton himself says in his introduction, which whets the appetite, it is “a hum-dum-dinger of a tale set to send your thoughts running for cover.” Highly recommended for children aged 7-9.
Brenda Marshall


Boot: the Rusty Rescue by Shane Hegarty Illustrated by Ben Mantle Hodder ISBN 9781444949391 £6.99

Boot the Robot is an appealing character and I enjoyed his first book, Small Robot, Big Adventure. This book does not disappoint. Again the story is set in the future where robots do all the work that humans find dull. Gerry and his friend, Boot, are on a carousel when Gerry’s ping-pong ball nose falls off. They decide to find a new one and visit the Testing Lab where humans test new things that will be sold in shops. There they discover an old, broken robot who needs help. The subsequent adventure involves a gym, bouncy castles, a half-built skyscraper, a birthday party, a rubbish bin truck, a taxi and much, much more. The story moves at a quick pace and is full of interesting characters and fun. It is also sensitive and encourages readers to think about artificial intelligence, humanity and feelings. An excellent read for 7-9 year olds.

Brenda Marshall


Boot: small robot, big adventure by Shane Hegarty Illustrated by Ben Mantle Hodder ISBN 9781444949360 £6.99

This is a truly delightful and heart-warming story set in a future world where robots are used to fulfil all the work that humans find boring and ordinary. The story starts when this small robot ‘wakes up’ in a scrap yard and cannot remember much of his past; however the word ‘Boot’ is in his memory, so he assumes that this is his name. After escaping from the evil Flint, who wants to crush him, Boot decides to try and find his original owner. He is gradually remembering more things and knows that he was owned by a young girl called Beth and that he sometimes went close to the river so, with the help of some new friends, our hero goes in search of his owner.

I found this a totally enchanting story with a lead character who gains more humanity and feelings as time goes on. Shane Hegarty, who wrote the amazing “Darkmouth” series, has now written a brilliant story for slightly younger readers; it is full of adventure, ideas about a future with robots and what we mean when talking about human feelings, family and friendship. This is a tremendous story for lower KS2, but would be lovely to read to slightly younger children. It is highly recommended.

Margaret Pemberton


Agent Weasel and the Abominable Dr Snow written and illustrated by Nick East Hodder Children’s Books  ISBN 9781444945300  £6.99

Agent Weasel, legendary super spy, is taking part in an Alpine sporting event, The Winter Whopper Games with his woodland friends. Always on duty, he discovers strange disappearances taking place, of hot chocolate and competitors too. He discovers this is the work of arch villain Dr Snow who is seeking woodland – wide domination by turning everyone into zombies using mind-controlled chocolate activated by flash camera. With the help of his trusty team, Agent Weasel quickly pursues the villain and rescues his captives managing to cope with a sudden avalanche at the same time.

Second in the series by the author who is well known as an illustrator, this is a zany adventure story suitable for independent reading in years 3 or 4, (aged 7-8 years). Occasional asides to the reader pointing out this is what you’d expect to happen in a story like this may prompt thoughts or conversations about other books, characters, story lines and outcomes. The cast of characters, who are all woodland creatures, may prompt interest in British wildlife.   The illustrations are fun and match the story style well, the map of the story world at the beginning of the book is a nice touch.

Sue McGonigle


Dragon Detective: Catnapped! by Gareth P. Jones Little Tiger ISBN 9781788951678 £6.99

Dirk Dilly is a dragon detective in London who conceals his true identity. He manages this because people in London never look up! A girl called Holly phones him to say her cat is missing. Dirk thinks the investigation will be dull, but more cats go missing and new dragons arrive in London. Soon Dirk and Holly are involved in a fast-paced thriller which entertains and amuses the reader. Originally published in Great Britain under the title The Case of the Missing Cats, it is back “with a new look, tweaked title, and an updated text.” Highly recommended for children aged 6 – 9 who like action packed detective stories with plenty of humour and unexpected twists.


Brenda Marshall


Imagine A Special 30th Anniversary Edition by Alison Lester  Allen & Unwin ISBN:9781911631590  £11.99

I cannot believe it has taken thirty years for me to come across this magical book! The simple premise is that two children, a girl and a boy are playing imaginary games up a tree, in the snow or on the rug inside, each time imagining if they really were in the jungle, under the ocean or back in dinosaur times. This is conveyed for each of the seven habitats by seven lines of image-creating poetic text ending with an ellipsis: the precursor to a magical double-page spread depicting each place in delicate and intricate watercolour detail. Around each spread are listed 20-30 animal names all identifiable thanks to a clever key for each at the end of the book. I came across many names I did not recognise, especially amongst the dinosaurs and was inspired to investigate further. Children from KS1 to KS2 will feel the same. They could also investigate and then create their own pages for other habitats: desert, deciduous woodland, rock pools. The list is endless and can be linked with English, Science and Geography. Equally they could explore that ellipsis technique and think of their own sentence endings. This highly honoured Australian author has produced a timeless classic to introduce children to the wonders of the natural world and to inspire their natural imaginations. Have a copy in every classroom, particularly this attractive edition.


Sue Barrett


Supercats vs Maximus Fang by Gwyneth Rees Illustrated by Becka Moor  Bloomsbury ISBN 9781408894224 £5.99 Also available as an Ebook

Gory Gus, the villain, is back in town, and plans to break his partner in crime, Maximus Fang, out of Cat’s End Prison.  Topaz leads a top-secret team of supercats who fight crime.  She sends Tagg, whose superpower is camouflage, and Sugarfoot, whose superpower is a super yowl, on a mission to stop the jail break, which involves them infiltrating Hamish’s gang of Hit Cats. Gory’s super power is telekinesis – moving things by using his mind – and Maximus’ power is weather control. The story is fast paced and fun, with plenty of excitement and tension along the way. Attractive illustrations enhance the text and add to the fun. At the back of the book is an interesting section called Meet the Supercats and a quiz to check if your cat has superpowers. An enjoyable action packed animal story for children aged 6+.

Brenda Marshall


Princess BMX by Marie Basting Chicken House ISBN 9781911490944 £6.99

A brilliant bonkers story, with fantastic descriptions and elaborate characters. Packed with fast action sequences and naturally lots of BMX bike riding, Princess BMX will astound and delight readers with vivid imaginations. The central premise is an upside down fairy tale. Our heroine is Princess Avariella – a lively but bored Princess residing in the magical world of Biscotti. When she accidentally locates a portal to the real non-magic world, known to us as North London, she also discovers a latent passion for BMX riding as well as loyal group of non-magic children who team up with our hardy heroine. The story is multi layered as it switches between the two worlds with some amusing descriptions of life in the slightly loopy world of Biscotti. With never a dull moment and masses of detail which children will love, the pace is nonstop. As Princess Avariella would probably say herself, “oh my giddy goblin, what a ride!” Age range 7 – 11.

Hilary Payne


The Great Outdoors Woodland  Explore Nature with Facts and Activities by Lisa Regan Wayland ISBN 9781523610682 £12.99

This charming book is part of a series that encourages children to look at and appreciate nature on their doorstep. First we are introduced to the wonderful world of woodlands. There is a good mix of information, drawings and photographs. Pages are well laid out and facts are presented in accessible bite-size chunks, with effective use of coloured backgrounds and fonts. The book is especially strong at showing us what can be found in local woodland, such as birds, flowers, fungi and logs. Clear instructions are given for activities that enhance learning. I particularly liked making a spore print. Children are encouraged to protect woodland by thinking about their use of paper, recycling, and going paperless where possible.  There is a multiple choice quiz where readers can check that they have absorbed key information, as well as a contents page, index and list of books and websites to encourage further research. An excellent book that will inform and inspire children aged 7+ at home or school.

Brenda Marshall


Unbelievable Football – The Most Incredible True Football Stories You Never Knew by Matt Oldfield Illustrated by Ollie Mann wren and rook  ISBN 9781526362445 £6.99

This is an excellent book for a football fan aged 7+. The information is appealing and wide ranging, including the World War 1 Christmas truce; the greatest women’s football team of all time who played their last match in 1965; the Busby Babes; the player who faked his own death on the football pitch and the psychic octopus famed for his predictions in the 2010 World Cup. The style is informative and warm, and the text is well-spaced on the page which will attract reluctant readers. There are several role models and examples of resilience such as Di Stéfano, Roger Milla and Didier Drogba. This book can be read from cover to cover or dipped into. At only £6.99 it is excellent value.

Brenda Marshall


Trailblazers: Harriet Tubman by Sandra A Agard Stripes Publishing ISBN: 9781788952224 £6.99

Harriet Tubman was an amazing lady. A slave who escaped from the South via the ‘Underground Railway’ to the North; who returned time and again to lead other slaves to freedom; who worked for the Unionist Army in the American Civil War; who campaigned for Women’s Suffrage, and who set up a home for old people with no other means of support. What a life story! She deserves to be much better known, although a feature film, [the first], about her was released in the autumn of 2019.

This title, in the ‘Trailblazers’ series, lets us discover her story. Contextual detail helps the reader to make sense of events, and charming black and white illustrations break up the text and try to personalize the narrative. Her bravery is portrayed in a ‘matter of fact’ way, which makes it even more impressive to read. For a woman who could neither read nor write she certainly left a real legacy. This book is a fitting tribute to her story, appropriately pitched at the right level to absorb young readers aged 8 - 10. Highly recommended.

Alf Wilkinson


Nose Knows by Emmanuelle Figueras  Illustrated by Claire De Gastold What on Earth Books   ISBN 9781912920068     £14.99

I read this book to my Year Two class (children aged 6 and 7 years) and they absolutely loved it. They were enthralled by the subject matter, as was I!  I am not sure I have ever read a book all about the nose and smelling but now I have, we all feel much the wiser for it. The ‘lift the flaps’ were great fun, but also very informative and they certainly added to the interest of the book. Although some of the vocabulary might suit older children, aged 7-10 years, this did not detract in any way from the enjoyment and the children were gripped with each session of me reading from the book. The illustrations are also wonderful and, in fact, make this book something of a showpiece. The drawings are fun, yet accurate and life-like, adding to the educational value of the book. I would certainly give this as a gift for a birthday or Christmas, to any budding little scientist or lover of animals. All in all a hugely successful read and one that I will revisit again and again when teaching the children about our senses in science.

Charlotte Townsend


Eight Princesses and a Magic Mirror by Natasha Farrant     Illustrated by Lydia Corry Head of Zeus   ISBN 978178854115 £12.99

This book is beautiful to look at, and captures all the magic of a traditional book of fairy tales. In its hard-back form, adorned with bright and appealing illustrations, it would make a brilliant addition to a library or school book corner, and also a lovely gift for the home. There is one wonderful and modern exception to the traditional tales within this book – all these stories subvert the usual stereotypes and bring to life princesses who ‘refuse to be pretty, polite or obedient’. Instead, these girls are ‘fierce, brave and determined to do the rescuing for themselves’. Capturing the current trend for turning traditional tales on their head, the stories contained within this volume are great fun and include strong and aspirational characters. With a vast array of themes and settings, (from mountains and deserts to city tower-blocks and urban dwellings), each tale stands alone. A lovely book to dip in and out of, it would be great as a stimulus in a P4C session looking at stereotypes and how they have evolved over the years. It could be the basis of some great work on re-writing other familiar tales and so perfect for English lessons.

Laura Davies


Mr Penguin and The Catastrophic Cruise by Alex T. Smith. Hodder  ISBN: 9781444944570 £9.99

This is the third Mr Penguin book and it does not disappoint. This time he is on board a luxury cruise ship because his friend, Colin the spider and kung fu expert, is performing with the Ladies Choir. Mr Penguin is looking forward to having a rest. There are famous film stars, a carnival atmosphere and plenty of fish finger sandwiches. However all is not as it seems and Mr Penguin soon finds himself with a mystery to solve. The story moves at a good pace and the text is well-spaced with plenty if illustrations. Children aged 6 – 8 will enjoy the humour, the fun and sense of adventure. Bravo Mr Penguin!

Brenda Marshall

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